By STEVE BITTENBENDER
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — A newly opened upstate New York congressional seat may lead to a contentious Republican primary in a couple of months.
On Friday, U.S. Rep. Chris Jacobs, R-N.Y., announced he would withdraw from running for the new 23rd congressional district in the state’s southwestern corner. Not long after that news broke, U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, another New York GOP’er and chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, threw her support behind Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino for the district that encompasses part of Buffalo’s suburbs and New York’s Southern Tier.
Mr. Paladino announced Sunday he had secured the petition signatures he needed to get on the Aug. 23 primary ballot. In a statement, he said he was “grateful” for the “grassroots” support he received in recent days.
“I have dedicated my life to serving upstate New York as a job creator, business owner and someone who has taken on the establishment and won,” he said.
Mr. Paladino lost the 2010 gubernatorial election to Democrat Andrew Cuomo by nearly 30 points, but he carried the counties in the congressional district. He also served on the Buffalo Board of Education. However, he was removed from that position by then-State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia after it was determined that Mr. Paladino publicly disclosed confidential information discussed in an executive session regarding the teachers’ contract.
Mr. Paladino also drew heavy criticism for racist remarks he made about the Obamas.
While Mr. Paladino is out campaigning, reports Monday indicated that the state Republican Party would look inward for a replacement for Rep. Jacobs on the ballot.
New York political blogger Ken Kruly tweeted Monday that New York State GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy would be named the new candidate by both the Republican and Conservative parties for the primary. Efforts were unsuccessful before publication to get a confirmation from the state Republican Party.
Rep. Jacobs was seemingly in a strong position to run in a newly drawn district that gave former President Donald Trump 59% support in the 2020 election. However, after the deadly mass shooting attacks in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, last month, he said he would support banning certain types of guns if a bill was proposed in Congress. He also said he would back bumping the age limit to purchase those weapons from 18 years of age to 21.
Republicans and conservatives criticized the move, which ultimately led to Rep. Jacobs’ decision to pull out of the race.
“We were perplexed, however, by his recent stance on Second Amendment rights, a position well outside the mainstream of the Republican Party, the Conservative Party and the voters of NY 23,” New York State Conservative Party Chairman Gerard Kassar said in a statement. “We agree that it’s the best interest of all three — and of Congressman Jacobs himself — that he forgoes a run for re-election and returns to civilian life. We wish him only the best in his future endeavors.”