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Higgins cruises to Democratic primary win in 26th Congressional District

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Egriu vs. Higgins

Buffalo contractor Emin "Eddie" Egriu and Rep. Brian Higgins.

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Longtime U.S. Rep. Brian M. Higgins easily fended off his first primary challenge in 18 years, cruising to victory over Buffalo contractor Emin "Eddie" Egriu on Tuesday to become the Democratic candidate in the redrawn 26th Congressional District.

Higgins, who had last faced a primary challenger when the seat opened up in 2004, held a significant financial advantage in the race, boasting a war chest of nearly $1.3 million compared with Egriu's largely-self financed campaign that had just $14,700 on hand as of early this month. 

The race pitted a longtime incumbent quick to reference his track record of bringing federal funding to the district against a Buffalo business owner eager to bring an outsider's perspective to the job. Egriu, who moved to Buffalo in 1983 and owns a contracting business, had run unsuccessfully for office several other times, dating back to a Buffalo Common Council race in 1999.

Higgins and Egriu faced off in the newly drawn 26th congressional district, which covers much much of the existing 26th – Buffalo, its most populous suburbs and Niagara Falls – but swaps out several towns in southern Erie County for more of western Niagara County.

The 26th district remains heavily Democratic, and Higgins will be favored in November against Republican Steven Sams II as he seeks his 10th term in office.

Sams, whose campaign had just shy of $5,000 on hand as of Aug. 3, is a retired U.S. Army sergeant who lives in Getzville. 

Sams, who was born in Florida and has resided in Western New York since 1991, says on his campaign website that he's running for the office "because the people need a voice in Congress that knows what their life is like and knows what they have gone through."

Higgins declared victory Tuesday night at Erie County Democratic headquarters. There, party officials celebrated decisive wins by Higgins and also by State Sen. Sean M. Ryan, who prevailed in the Democratic primary for the newly drawn 61st District.

"I wasn't exactly surprised by the results; I am surprised by the margins," Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Jeremy Zellner said of the results.

Buffalo News staff reporter Stephen T. Watson contributed to this story.

Jon Harris can be reached at 716-849-3482 or jharris@buffnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ByJonHarris.

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I'm a Genesee County native and Syracuse University grad who covered business at the (Binghamton) Press & Sun-Bulletin and at The Morning Call in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I joined The Buffalo News in September 2021, covering the business of health care.

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