BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Republican candidate Joel Giambra said he will no longer actively campaign in the August primary for New York's 61st state Senate district.
He also plans to leave the party.
"The Republican Party has changed for one reason and that's Donald Trump and I think it's just unfortunate that the party would continue to worship former President Donald Trump after knowing how despicable the man really is," Giambra said.
He said his discontent has been building over the last five years or so and was recently pushed over the top by the party's hard-line stances on abortion and guns. Giambra said he would have continued his campaign if moderate Republican Harry Wilson had won the primary for governor, but disagrees with nominee Lee Zeldin seeking Trump's support, Zeldins's congressional vote not to certify 2020 election results in two states and his announced intent to appoint a "pro-life" health commissioner.
"I can't stand by the candidate for governor and be on the same ticket with a person whose ideology is much different than mine," he said.
Giambra, the former Erie County executive, has long had a tenuous relationship with his own party since changing his affiliation as a Democrat in 1999. In 2016, he led a group of Republicans supporting Hillary Clinton and his 2018 push for governor garnered little support from leadership.
He did initially get the Erie County GOP endorsement against Democrat Sean Ryan in the 61st Senate District this election cycle, but following a redistricting decision which brought incumbent Republican Ed Rath into the race, the committee chose not to re-endorse while the infrastructure has assisted Rath's campaign.
"I don't believe the party leadership has any desire to promote a candidate like me who has rational thoughts and ideas and is fiscally conservative yet socially tolerant," he said.
Gov. Kathy Hochul's campaign is pointing to Giambra's statements as an indictment in Zeldin's "extremism" and predicts both major parties will reject his vision in the coming months. Erie County Republicans, meanwhile, are predicting a red wave and say if Giambra wants to align with Democrats that have given "crushing inflation, record gas prices and lets violent crime roam free on our streets" then they are happy to "kiss him goodbye."
Giambra is, in fact, planning to register unaffiliated and says his political career is not necessarily over.
"If there were a movement to create a third party, that would be very, very intriguing to me because quite frankly, I think the Democrats' party going to the left has abandoned a majority of their constituency and the Republican Party going far right has abandoned a majority of their consituency," he said.
He said he would've continued his campaign if he had been able to collect enough signatures to secure an independent ballot line.