Conservative county chairs in New York's 27th Congressional District are recommending the party not designate a candidate for an upcoming special election.
Erie County Chair Ralph Lorigo said four of the seven county chairs made the recommendation their line stay blank at a Monday afternoon meeting with state party chairman Gerard Kassar. Unlike the Republican and Democratic parties who hold a weighted vote to designate candidates for special elections, the state Conservative Party executive committee ultimately decides who would be on the ballot.
“The Republicans did their process and they have every right to do the process the way they feel is correct," Lorigo said. "The special election has not even been called up to this point in time and when the special election is in fact called, you then have ten days to issue a certificate of nomination. There have been some of our counties who have not been able to interview these candidates. So again in given the whole situation and given what’s happened and given what we do know about the candidates at the present time, that is the recommendation of the counties who have in fact interviewed.”
Lorigo said while the county committees don't have the final decision, he expects the executive committee to heed their recommendations. Four people interested in running for the seat, including current state senators Chris Jacobs and Rob Ortt, attorney Beth Parlato and Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, met informally with the party during its conference in Albany this weekend.
"First of all, we believe that this seat needs to be in the hands of a conservative Republican,” he said. “We are not willing to help a Democrat win this seat. So we did not want a Democrat in this seat. It needs to be a conservative Republican. The second most important thing is the candidate needs to fit the district.”
This weekend, the Republican Party voted to designate Jacobs as its candidate for the special election. If he does not get the Conservative designation, it would obviously be a blow to the Jacobs campaign, but leaving the line blank would also avoid splitting votes by fielding two Republican candidates.
Lorigo said the Monroe, Niagara and Genesee county chairs were not involved in Monday's meeting but he believes they will take the same position. Livingston County Chair Jason McGuire did take part.
"If the Conservative Party does not nominate a candidate for the April election, it allows the process to move forward in a way that grants each of the candidates equal footing to make their case directly to the voters of the 27th congressional district, while not unnecessarily splitting the conservative vote and handing this seat to a far-left progressive politician," McGuire said.
The 27th district is considered among, if not, the state's most conservative-leaning however the Cuomo administration has indicated he plans to call the special election for April 28, the same day as the state's presidential primary. With Democrats expected to turn out to choose an opponent for Donald Trump, observers say it could open up the possibility of a blue turn in NY-27 where 2018 candidate Nate McMurray is expected to again represent the party.
“When we pass on the special election, it’s still our opinion that Conservatives will go to the polls and they’re not going to vote for the Democrat," Lorigo said. "That’s still our opinion.”
The seat will again be up for a regular election later this year and Mychajliw and Parlato have already signified they plan to continue campaigning toward a June primary. Lorigo said Conservative Party county committees will need to decide the candidate for which they plan to carry petitions.
“It’s not our making that there’s going to be a Republican primary," he said. "There’s going to be one so the fact that we are in that primary, in our opinion, gives the voters of the 27th, they get to pick who they feel best represents them and we feel that’s the way it should be done.”
The Erie County Conservative Committee plans to conduct interviews and make a determination Saturday as to who it will recommend for the general election.