Just a few weeks ago, a powerful Washington political action committee called Club for Growth promised a “seven-figure” campaign against Republican Christopher L. Jacobs in the June 23 primary for the 27th Congressional District seat.
But much in GOP politics changed Tuesday when President Trump tweeted “my Complete Endorsement” for Jacobs, at least for the special election face-off with Democrat Nate McMurray on April 28.
Now real questions surround the Club for Growth's promise, including whether it remains committed to spending such major dollars against a candidate with the imprimatur of the most popular political figure in the overwhelmingly Republican district.
The super PAC's officials weren’t talking on Wednesday, but candidates still aiming for the June primary say they believe nothing has changed – despite unequivocal backing from the president.
“I have no reason to believe they will not be spending seven figures, which is bad news for Chris Jacobs,” said Stefan I. Mychajliw Jr., the Erie County comptroller who promises a major primary effort despite Jacobs’ new presidential support.
But Club for Growth could prove the strongest hope for candidates like Mychajliw and former Darien Town Justice Beth A. Parlato, who must scramble to raise the kind of money needed to compete with the well-heeled Jacobs (he has already pumped his own money into a fund that has topped $1 million).
Club for Growth said in recent weeks that it could support either Mychajliw or Parlato, but not Jacobs. Indeed, it said its effort in the primary would be directed against Jacobs.
The political committee has already demonstrated its ability to back up its promises with money. In the 2018 cycle of congressional elections, it reported spending about $23.2 million in races across the country.
Mychajliw emphasized Wednesday he has not been in contact with Club for Growth officials, but thinks its effort will only help his cause.
“They will bring $1 million to the table, which negates what Chris Jacobs has to spend on the special and primary,” he said.
The new support for Jacobs followed an hourlong meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday between the president and state Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy of Amherst, which also included Vice President Pence and Erin K. Baker, a GOP fundraiser who is married to Langworthy. The state chairman made a strong case for Jacobs at the meeting, and Trump tweeted his support shortly thereafter.
But since the president’s tweet for Jacobs only mentioned the April 28 special election, other candidates like Mychajliw contend that Trump had no choice against Democrat McMurray.
“No matter who the candidate was in the special election, Donald Trump would have endorsed me, Beth Parlato, Rob Ortt or a ham sandwich,” Mychajliw said, including in his list the state senator who dropped out of the race after Republicans backed Jacobs.
And despite his long history of labeling Jacobs a “never-Trumper” (a claim disputed by the independent PolitiFact research service), Mychajliw said he will continue using the term even after Tuesday's tweet from the president in support of Jacobs.
“Absolutely, why not?” he said Wednesday. “His record surely reflects that.”
Officials of the Conservative Party, meanwhile, also said Wednesday they were not backing off their refusal to back Jacobs despite the president’s statement.
“It’s an opportunity here for the people of the 27th to choose their own candidate,” said Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph C. Lorigo. “I think the constituents should have the right to decide who they are most comfortable with.”
The party late last month decided to keep its line blank for the April 28 special election, with Lorigo noting Jacobs had failed to convince officials that he “fit the district.” Instead, it endorsed Parlato for the November general election.
Parlato has left open the possibility of leaving the Conservative line should another candidate win the primary, so as not to split the opposition against a Democrat in November.
Jacobs, meanwhile, is set to roll out his first major backer since the presidential tweet with a Thursday morning endorsement from former Republican Rep. Jack F. Quinn Jr., a popular vote-getter who represented the Buffalo area in Congress from 1993 to 2005.