As if confusion does not already surround filling the vacant 27th Congressional District seat, Erie County Conservatives injected even more over the weekend by endorsing attorney Beth A. Parlato for the November general election and again rejecting Republican candidate Christopher L. Jacobs.
The action means Parlato, an occasional Fox News commentator and former Darien town justice, is well on her way to snaring the often crucial minor-party line pending expected state party approval. It allows her to compete in November at least as the Conservative candidate, while bolstering her right-leaning credentials for the June 23 Republican primary against Jacobs and other candidates.
And it marks the second time in a week that Conservatives have split with their traditional GOP allies and spurned Jacobs, whom they did not nominate for the April 28 special election to fill the seat of Republican Chris Collins, who resigned Sept. 30. They said then that Jacobs did not “fit” the district’s conservative values and opted to leave their line blank on April 28 to avoid splitting the vote against Democrat Nate McMurray.
Significantly, however, Parlato says she will not continue as the general election candidate should she lose the June Republican primary, eliminating a possible scenario that could have split the vote against McMurray in November, too.
“I’m confident I will win the primary,” she said Monday. “But if by some chance I lose, I would never split the vote.”
Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph C. Lorigo said Parlato was joined Saturday for Conservative interviews by Jacobs, a state senator; fellow State Sen. Robert G. Ortt; and Erie County Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw Jr. Jacobs appealed to the party once again, even though it turned him down for the special election just last week.
Lorigo noted then that keeping the unfilled line would prevent the scenario caused by another Republican competing with Jacobs on April 28 and splitting the vote. But now the party looks to nominate a candidate for November, with Parlato emerging from the Saturday process as the Conservative favorite.
“She is not a political insider,” Lorigo said. “And I’ve seen her ability to approach people, look them in the eye, and convince them. I think she’s an excellent candidate.”
Though the Erie County development represents only part of the Conservative process for the eight-county district, the party’s second rejection of Jacobs in just the past week underscores the difficulty of the GOP and Conservatives to unify behind one candidate. It also marks the first major victory in Parlato’s campaign, as she now looks to the June 23 primary for the GOP line as well.
Parlato noted that she will make her case in coming weeks to statewide Conservatives for their official nomination with support from every county in the district except Niagara, which is still pledged to Ortt.
“This says what I’ve been saying all along,” she said, “that I am not a conservative by convenience just because I am running for political office. I’ve been a conservative all my life. It’s not a mere label. It’s part of who I am.”
State Conservative Chairman Gerard Kassar on Monday noted that Niagara County remains behind Ortt, but that he will take into consideration the “gigantic” role of Erie County in the process as well as that of the smaller counties.
“If it comes back very mixed,” he said, “then I will probably exercise a greater level of participation. Let’s see how it rolls out with all the counties.”
Jacobs, meanwhile, has been forced throughout the campaign to defend his credentials against attacks that he is not “conservative enough.” A powerful Washington political committee called the Club for Growth, for example, has already pledged to spend more than $1 million against him in the primary.
He also had to fend off a strong challenge from Ortt on Jan. 25 to gain the GOP nomination for the special election, prompting the county leaders to pronounce their unified support but which insiders say left divisions.
Erie County Republican Chairman Karl J. Simmeth Jr., a strong Jacobs supporter, declined a Monday request for comment on the newest Conservative development. And while the Jacobs campaign also would not address its latest Conservative rejection, spokesman Cam Savage emphasized what could emerge as the key campaign issue – support for President Trump.
“We are 100% focused on the critically important April 28 special election and the opportunity for conservatives to send Donald Trump an ally,” he said.
The Conservative developments preceded by just two days Jacobs’ first advertising efforts of the campaign as he debuted his first radio spot emphasizing his conservatism and support for Trump – especially on key issues like immigration, health care and taxes.
“Chris Jacobs stands strong with President Trump. He’s for the Trump tax cuts, dead set against the socialist schemes,” the ad says. “Chris Jacobs is conservative, he’s on President Trump’s team.”
Jacobs is expected to ramp up his effort in coming weeks with the ample campaign treasury that so far has attracted about $1 million.