The rumble in NY27

The doubleheader in NY27 will be over in a few days. It cannot happen soon enough.

The indictment, re-election, conviction and resignation of Chris Collins, former member of the House of Representatives from the 27th District in New York, spanned 14 months. The process for getting new representation for the district has gone on for eight months.

It will end on June 23rd when voters will choose between Democrat Nate McMurray and Republican Chris Jacobs for the right to occupy the seat through the end of 2020. Simultaneously Republican voters will select a candidate for the November general election for the seat from among Jacobs, Stefan Mychajliw and Beth Parlato. McMurray has no primary and will be on the November ballot.

Pandemic campaigning has certainly crimped the efforts of all candidates, limiting the normal ground efforts of door-to-door canvassing and large fundraiser gatherings. So mailers have been flying, signs have popped up, and most notably television ads have inundated the public airwaves.

The Federal Election Commission required candidates to file financial disclosures twelve days prior to the election (June 11th). The reports reflect receipts and expenditures for the period through June 3rd. Here is a summary:

Jacobs. Total non-loan receipts for the campaign — $1,031,020; personal loan — $446,000; Individual contributions — $885,171; Total expenditures — $1,208,600; Paid media — $583,522; Cash on hand as of June 3rd — $248,717
McMurray. Total non-loan receipts for the campaign — $709,194; personal loan — $0; Individual contributions — $673,666; Total expenditures — $404,101; Paid media — $0; Cash on hand as of June 3rd — $328,636
Parlato. Total non-loan receipts for the campaign — $413,810; personal loan — $258,500; Individual contributions — $393,818; Total expenditures — $536,838; Paid media — $421,941; Cash on hand as of June 3rd — $135,472
Mychajliw. Total non-loan receipts for the campaign — $100,986; personal loan — $0; Individual contributions — $99,430; Total expenditures — $73,005; Paid media — $60,200; Cash on hand as of June 3rd — $27,981

Aside from the TV ads, the first major public sign of campaign activity occurred last week when WIVB-TV hosted a debate between McMurray and Jacobs. It was not Lincoln-Douglas or Kennedy-Nixon. McMurray-Jacobs was an incredibly poor debate.

ICYMI, here’s a quick summary: for nearly all questions that did not concern his personal political resume, Jacobs’ answers were pretty much what you would expect to hear if Donald Trump were on the debate stage himself or hovering nearby. In McMurray’s case he did have some interesting thoughts about the issues of the day, but a viewer could be excused for not remembering any of them given that his performance was marked by a whole lot of yelling and interrupting Jacobs.

The debate was painful to watch. One conclusion that viewers might take from the event is that at least there is a place on the election ballot to write-in another name.

Meanwhile, the viewing public has been treated (okay, pained) to watch ad after ad after ad from the three contestants in the Republican primary. The volume has been incredible between Jacobs and Parlato, with back-to-back commercials running throughout the days and weeks. The majority of their ads are highly negative.

Mychajliw has been running ads less frequently. He has avoided going after the other candidates in his commercials, directing his attacks elsewhere; one spot shows the van set on fire in Niagara Square on the first night of local demonstrations as part of his “law and order” narrative. In the past Mychajliw has directed many verbal attacks against Jacobs, suggesting he is a Republican in name only.

The ad volume almost makes it seem that the candidates are funding a pandemic help-a-business program, with the campaigns doing their best to prop up TV stations that have been impacted by advertising lost while businesses are closed.

The Republican ads all want you to know that THEY SUPPORT DONALD TRUMP 100 PERCENT, so on the issue they see as the most significant one, there is no disagreement. Jacobs has the added benefit of being officially “Trump Approved,” as noted in one of his ads. “Trump Approved” should not be confused with a “Recommended” from Consumer Reports, or for older readers of this blog, the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

Beyond the Trump obsession we have learned from the ads that Jacobs has had some Democratic history as well as some less-than-Republican-approved political history. Parlato, according to a Jacobs ad, did not vote in 2016 when Trump was on the ballot. Mychajliw says he has been the taxpayers’ watchdog in County Hall. All the ads include various other fairly predictable Republican positions.

Even though his name is on the special election ballot on June 23rd, McMurray has been absent from TV thus far, perhaps hoping that Parlato’s attacks on Jacobs are effectively helping him in the special election.

Bob McCarthy has reported in the Buffalo News that the right-wing Club for Growth, a national organization that sometimes stakes out positions out-of-sync with Trump, is taking a pass on spending money in NY27, although they think Jacobs is not conservative enough. Reading between the lines, it seems that the Club either doesn’t think that “not conservative enough” matters much or that maybe they just don’t want to offend Trump at this time.

The ads, press releases, and Trump’s and his son’s tweets seem to indicate that the Republican Party establishment is nervous about Jacobs’s chances, at least in the primary election. The script says that Jacobs should win both the special election and the Republican primary. That would make him the odds-on favorite in November. A Jacobs’ loss to Parlato in the primary would be very embarrassing to the party’s leadership. It would not be totally surprising.

History buffs might be interested in knowing that many years ago that happened in an earlier version of this same district when the Republican Party leadership went all out for a candidate who lost his primary. The Republican chairman resigned but was talked into staying. But I digress.

And when all is said and done in NY27 in 2020 it should be remembered that New York will lose a House seat after this year’s census. There will be no NY27 in 2022. Whoever makes it through November in the district will probably be left to ponder an election against Brian Higgins or Tom Reed in 2022. It’s never too early to get things started.