It’s interesting to watch all the posturing that is going on in New York’s 27th Congressional District as voters wait to elect a new member of the House of Representatives. Oh, the excitement!
We are about to watch a congressional doubleheader: a special election and a primary election conducted concurrently for the same congressional seat, left vacant by convicted felon Chris Collins. The special election will happen sometime in the next few weeks or months while the Republican (and Democratic?) primary will begin with petitioning in February and conclude on June 23rd.
Republicans are now suing Governor Andrew Cuomo to try to force him to call the special election sometime very soon, preferably two weeks from next Tuesday. They rail against an extended period of time when the district is without a new member of the House minority, overlooking the fact that Collins was essentially a non-entity in Washington from the day he was indicted on security charges in August 2018 until he pled guilty and resigned in September 2019.
The Republicans are concerned that too many people might come out to vote in the special election, preferring to keep turnout as low as possible. Their problem is not really that April 28th, the date the governor seems to be leaning toward for the special election, is too far away. It’s just that it’s the presidential primary day in New York State this year, and that will likely drive a larger turnout than say February 2nd (Groundhogs Day) or February 17th (Presidents Day).
Candidates in the special election will be selected by the eight county party leaders in the district. In the primary election normal petitioning rules will apply. Since the special election will likely not be concluded before the primary petitioning process is complete, the primary will attract more candidates than the special election will offer.
The Democratic candidate in the special election will probably be Nate McMurray, who narrowly lost to Collins last year. There may or may not be a Democratic primary in June depending on whether newcomer Melodie Baker files petitions.
The Republican field, on the other hand, is more crowded both for the yet-to-be-scheduled special election and for the primary. Potential candidates include State Senators Robert Ortt and Chris Jacobs, Assemblyman Stephan Hawley, attorney Beth Parlato, and Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw. The candidates are looking to distinguish themselves in order to best sell their candidacies.
There are such matters as current public service (Ortt, Jacobs, Hawley, Mychajliw); fundraising potential (Jacobs, Parlato); or perhaps visibility to the Republican Party base (as Parlato claims from appearances on Fox News).
All of the Republicans pledge their allegiance to Donald Trump, although there is some dispute amongst them about who is the Trumpiest. And then there are their credentials among the members of the Conservative Party in the state.
Bob McCarthy in the Buffalo News recently detailed the efforts of the Republicans to show which candidate is most loyal to the dictates of the Conservative Party, as measured by the ratings of state legislators during the 2019 legislative session.
The Party ranked Robert Ortt highest among our local contestants, with a 100 percent rating. Hawley was given a score of 92 percent, while Chris Jacobs was at 84 percent. Parlato and Mychajliw were not rated since they are not members of the Legislature.
Ortt, Jacobs and Hawley are all in the minority party caucuses of the State Legislature. It’s easier to take stands favorable to the Conservatives when you basically have no responsibility or influence over what is likely to be voted on or approved. Likewise, Parlato and Mychajliw, having no governing duties, are free to stake out whatever public positions suit their purposes.
“Being Conservative isn’t about a party or a label, it’s about standing by the principles of smaller government, less taxes and economic freedom, no matter the cost,” Hawley is quoted as saying.
But there is where the problem lies for the candidates of the Trump Republican Party. The Trump Republican Party, to which all five pledge their loyalty, does not stand by the principles of smaller government and economic freedom “no matter the cost.”
The Trump Republican Party is supportive of bigger government and gigantic federal deficits. Although candidate Trump promised to wipe out the national debt in eight years, the truth is that the deficit is growing to heights never before imaged. The recently completed fiscal year 2019 saw nearly a trillion dollar deficit, resulting from greatly diminished tax revenues and substantial increases in spending, particularly for the military-industrial complex. Projections for the next eight years show additional trillion dollar deficits each year. Hardly a “conservative” approach to government.
BTW, the Trump corporate tax cuts resulted in 91 of the Fortune 500 companies paying no federal taxes last year.
“Economic freedom” for conservative Republicans once stood for open markets. The Trump Republican Party operates under a “crony capitalism” system, with Trump and his appointees choosing which cronies to favor.
“Economic freedom” for Republicans has usually stood for relatively free trade throughout the world. Trump’s tariff wars are destroying that “conservative” principal.
There were also previously “conservative” Republican principals such as support for long-standing allies of the United States and for the promotion of democracy around the world. Trump is more comfortable with commies and dictators, and has turned his back on freedom. Party leaders are with him.
So as the Republican candidates in NY27 compare their respective “conservative” credentials, one has to wonder which “conservative” principles are they really talking about. The pound-your-chest braggadocio of minority party members of the Legislature or the non-legislative candidates is not what the Trump Republican Party is all about.
If the claim is in support of Donald Trump’s Republican Party, then they are not really “conservatives,” because real conservatives do not support trillion dollar government deficits, crony capitalism, trade wars, and tinhorn dictators.
As each of the Republican candidates try to out-conservative the others they are likely to be drawn to the extremes. Maybe or maybe not that will work in 2020. But when NY27 disappears in 2022, what good will the extremes of the Trump Republican Party do for the new member of Congress or the people of Western New York?