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GOP scrambling in 60th State Senate District

Robert J. McCarthy

For more than three years, Republican Chris Jacobs has represented the New York State Senate’s 60th District, despite the Democratic registration edge of about 38,000 voters.

That’s the way it is in Erie County. Republicans can and do succeed around here. Just ask Judge Mark Grisanti, another member of the GOP who also represented the district in the state Senate.

But lots has changed.

Republicans lost the Senate in 2018. It was their last bastion of power in New York State, a place where Republicans like Jacobs could make the case for “getting things done.”

Now the GOP state Senate is reduced to a 40 to 23 seat minority. “Getting things done” becomes a tough assignment for a Republican.

In addition, Jacobs is moving on. He seeks the 27th Congressional District seat vacated by Republican Chris Collins. A special election is scheduled for April 28. Some people called him a “moderate” Republican in years past – maybe necessary in a Democratic, city-centered district.

We’re not sure Jacobs ever accepted that label or any other. But now he works hard to emphasize his “conservative” bona fides, reveling in President Trump’s “Complete Endorsement” while seeking the reddest congressional seat in New York.

So it comes as no surprise that the GOP now scrambles to even find a candidate (a candidate, mind you) for the Jacobs seat. Oh, the name of Ross Kostecky is appearing on designating petitions. But the Erie County Legislature senior clerk is there, for the moment anyway and according to party sources, as a placeholder. GOP honchos believe they have until April to find a “real” candidate against a formidable Democrat – Assemblyman Sean Ryan.

“I still think it can be won,” state Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy said of the 60th District a few days ago. “That seat has not been written off.”

All of this translates into continuing efforts aimed at Lynne Dixon, the former county legislator and 2019 candidate for county executive who now works in the office of Republican County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw. The GOP sees her as the party’s best hope, though other potential substitutes for Kostecky remain in the picture.

Dixon may be wary of the campaign trail. She now has a job, and many eye her as a potential candidate for Hamburg supervisor – a post with the potential of “getting things done” without weekly commutes to Albany to get nothing done.

Dixon isn’t talking. She told a reporter a few days ago she would immediately return a call. That never happened.

But it is known that Republicans want Dixon to run. It’s part of Langworthy’s legislative optimism as he gears up for his first state elections. He sees “outstanding candidates” on Long Island, in Rockland County and the Capital District ready to rail against controversial measures stemming from the new Democratic majority.

“Stay tuned,” the chairman said. “These bail reforms have made a lot of things possible.”

It will be worth staying tuned. At this point, Langworthy and his Republicans have no place to go but up.

• • •

• Knowledgeable sources say Greg Olma, the longtime Democratic insider, is working in former presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg’s Buffalo office, despite the former mayor of New York’s withdrawal from the race. Fired by the Poloncarz administration as deputy parks commissioner in January, Olma is regional organizing director at the Englewood Avenue office expected to remain part of Bloomberg’s yet-to-be-determined role in 2020 politics.

• Nate McMurray isn’t going away. The Democratic former supervisor of Grand Island narrowly lost to Republican Chris Collins in the 2018 contest for the 27th Congressional District, and he faces Jacobs for the April 28 special.

And no matter what happens in April, he is the Democrats’ general election candidate in November. He will remain very much a part of local politics throughout 2020.

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