All it took was one tweet from the president of the United States:
“Chris Jacobs will be a great Congressman who will always fight for the people of New York. He supports our #MAGA Agenda, will continue to Secure Our Border, Loves our Military, Vets, and is Strong on the #2A. Chris has my Complete Endorsement for the Special Election on 4/28!”
After President Trump tweeted his endorsement of the Republican candidate for the seat of former Rep. Chris Collins Tuesday, Jacobs got what he needed against opponents who say he has supported the president only out of political expediency.
Now, he heads toward his April 28 special election in the 27th Congressional District with Trump’s blessing in the strongest Trump turf in all of New York State.
It also grants the Republican state senator from Orchard Park a huge boost in a campaign in which he has struggled to shed the never-Trumper label affixed by primary opponents and Washington political committees.
The tweet of support occurred just after Trump and Vice President Pence met in the Oval Office of the White House with Amherst’s Nicholas A. Langworthy, the state Republican chairman, who made his case for a show of support for Jacobs.
Langworthy said there should be no doubts about the significance of Trump’s statement.
“It was a pretty strong statement from just a few hours after I left,” Langworthy said late Tuesday. “And anyone trying to parse those words is only trying to achieve their own political agenda.”
But different reactions began flowing into political discussions just minutes after the president issued his tweet and as the special election campaign against Democrat Nate McMurray picks up steam.
“I am deeply honored and humbled to receive President Trump’s endorsement,” Jacobs said. “I appreciate his trust and stand ready to join him in the fight against socialism and to help him enact his America First Agenda to rebuild our military, grow the economy, and finally secure our borders.”
Erie County Republican Chairman Karl J. Simmeth Jr. said nobody should doubt the significance of the president’s Tuesday statement, especially those who have dubbed Jacobs a "Republican in name only," or RINO.
“If anyone had any doubts about Chris Jacobs as a RINO or ‘never-Trumper,’ this puts it to bed,” he said. “And we plan to win that race on April 28.”
But other announced candidates viewed the presidential tweet in an entirely different light.
Erie County Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw Jr. views the Tuesday development as “incredibly telling” because Trump only mentioned the special election on April 28 and said nothing about the June 23 GOP primary. Jacobs, he said, offered an easy choice compared to McMurray.
“The president had to choose between a radical, progressive socialist and a Mitt Romney RINO,” Mychajliw said. “It was telling there was no support guaranteed for the primary.
“Nothing has changed for me,” he added. “We’ll let the Republican family choose on June 23.”
Beth A. Parlato, the former Darien town justice who also harbors a strong conservative agenda, said the president’s remarks do not end the controversy over who best fits the politics of the district.
“I believe Jacobs is struggling. I’ve heard the outcry and people are not happy with this pick,” she said. “I’m not surprised that Nick Langworthy had to go to the president for a tweet. And obviously, the president wants to keep the seat red.”
She echoed Mychajliw’s observation that the Trump tweet pertained only to the special election.
“That says to me that maybe the president is not convinced,” she said. “He hasn’t changed anything for me.”
Langworthy, however, reiterated that the Trump tweet should nix any question of Jacobs’ loyalty.
“It’s always been a falsehood,” he said. “Anybody who takes umbrage with this can look at the president’s own words. The endorsement speaks for itself.”
Still lurking in the background is Jeff Freeland, the Lewiston native and special White House assistant who presented himself as a candidate when the district’s county leaders selected Jacobs on Jan. 25, and who has yet to address his status. Still, he seemed on Tuesday to keep open the possibility of an eventual candidacy.
“Anybody would be better than Nate McMurray and the president knows that,” said Freeland, for whom acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney made phone calls prior to the January meeting. “We have to win the special because we need people to come to Washington to defend the president.”
Even McMurray was questioning his special election opponent’s loyalty to the president.
“It’s a good thing the president endorsed Jacobs early, because it took several years for Jacobs to endorse the president or even say his name,” McMurray said. “If I was Stefan Mychajliw, Beth Parlato, or [former candidate] Rob Ortt, I’d feel pretty betrayed right now. Jacobs became a Trump supporter overnight to try and win this position. Money talks.”
The Buffalo News reported Tuesday that Langworthy would meet with the president for a discussion about this fall’s Republican prospects in New York State. A strong Trump supporter since he and other state Republicans tried to woo him into the 2014 gubernatorial race, Langworthy appears to have strengthened his presidential relationship since taking over as state chairman – with the blessing of the White House – last July.
Langworthy would not discuss specifics about his Tuesday meeting, but said the president agrees with his goal of retaking some of the congressional seats lost to New York Democrats in 2018.
Though few observers expect Trump to score a New York victory in this year’s re-election bid, Langworthy said the president “is acutely aware” of the possibility for House gains.
“The New York delegation matters,” the chairman said. “There is no way to take back the national majority without winning seats in New York and states like California.”
Erin K. Baker, Langworthy’s wife and a fundraiser for Jacobs as well as the Erie County GOP, attended the one-hour meeting in the Oval Office.
“He was incredibly welcoming to Erin and me,” he said. “He was in a tremendous mood and well in tune with everything that’s going on in New York’s federal politics.
“You feel like you’re walking into history going into that Oval Office,” he added.