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The 27th District gets ready for its closeup

Robert J. McCarthy

Who would ever expect it? The 27th Congressional District commanding statewide – maybe national – attention in 2020?

The eight-county swath formerly represented by Chris Collins remains deep red turf – no muss, no fuss for the GOP. But Collins’ legal troubles opened the doors to a parade of Republicans eager to succeed him, and a free-for-all that can only delight Democratic hopeful Nate McMurray.

After some wild deliberations inside the Republican and Conservative Parties over the past few days, the battle lines are now set. Chris Jacobs eked out a Republican nod over State Senate colleague Rob Ortt for the April 28 special election. Beth Parlato, the former Darien town justice, persuaded the Conservatives for the November general election while the minor party keeps its line blank for the special.

Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw presents himself as the outsider for the June 23 primary, while White House aide Jeff Freeland weighs his options.

The Conservatives, with only 13,202 members in the district, found themselves navigating all kinds of perilous obstacles after Jacobs won the Republican nomination. Just a few days after presenting Ortt with their prestigious Legislative Scorecard Award or his 100% compliance with the party agenda, they turned to newcomer Parlato. (Maybe the award is not so prestigious after all).

But practicality also surrounds the Parlato move. The Conservatives may be preserving their options for a post-GOP primary scenario: If a Republican other than Parlato wins on June 23, the Conservatives could squeeze her through one of New York’s election law loopholes and replace her on the ballot.

Conservatives could exploit the Byzantine provision that allows Parlato’s late removal from their line via a State Supreme Court nomination in some uber-Democratic enclave like the Bronx. (Insert a hardy-har-har here on winning that one, but the loophole is designed for such political shenanigans).

While most insiders say the Conservatives’ nod for Parlato has infuriated GOP leaders, in the end, it could guarantee a united front in November. They could ship her off to the Bronx and then support the GOP primary winner.

But Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph Lorigo has recognized potential in Parlato from the start.

“We feel she is strong enough to win the Republican primary,” he said.

It’s important that at least some clarity enter the situation. Impeachment now lies behind President Trump. He will concentrate on his own re-election, and the political fortunes of other Republicans too.

As the Politics Column has noted, the president may very well turn his attention to the rural, suburban 27th that differs from Democratic New York State dominated by Democratic New York City and big upstate cities. Voters in the 27th are Trump’s kind of people, and support for him will rank as the primary’s main issue.

Any one of the Republican candidates could merit the president’s blessing. Then Trump could point to a true believer winning in big, bad, blue New York – possibly in the nation’s only congressional election before the presidential contest in November.

Maybe, maybe not. Our trusty Magic 8-Ball can’t definitively predict this one.

But if Trump gets involved and endorses, all the gyrations of recent days won’t amount to much. His guy or gal will suddenly look awfully good to all those pro-Trump voters.

A few other tidbits from the campaign trail:

• Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg is climbing in the polls. New York elected officials supporting him include Delaware Councilmember Joel Feroleto, Amherst Supervisor Biran Kulpa, Rep. Max Rose of Staten Island, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Mayors Gary McCarthy of Schenectady and Mike Spano of Yonkers, and State Sen. Todd Kaminsky of Rockville Centre.

Another New Yorker, Andrew Cuomo, has yet to pronounce his presidential favorite. The governor is a Joe Biden fan, but remains silent as the state’s April 28 primary approaches. If Biden fades, as some predict, Cuomo will be left with a difficult choice.

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