Erie County Republican Party Chairman Nicholas Langworthy is being credited with a surprisingly unified local party, evidenced by a cordial discourse among a strong group of GOP contenders.
Several candidates openly discuss their interest in the County Executive’s office, while others have been more coy. Local operatives have chatted endlessly about the pros and cons of each. The consensus is that there are four primary contenders who can win in a heavily Democrat enrolled county.
Lynne Dixon, County Legislator
Lynne Dixon represents Hamburg and the Southtowns on the County Legislature. She is a registered Independent who caucuses with the Republicans and is very popular in both parties. She is so “independent” that she challenged the Erie County Independence Party Chairwoman Mary Rose Gaughn for her seat on the State Committee. She ousted the party boss.
Dixon is personable and charismatic — well liked in her district and trusted by her GOP colleagues. She is particularly popular among suburban voters and her candidacy could help to make inroads with female voters.
Chris Jacobs, County Clerk
Some operatives think that County Clerk Chris Jacobs is the strongest of the party’s contenders. He has been elected twice countywide and by wild margins. Jacobs performs strongly among Democrat voters and in the suburbs. He is known as a thoughtful and exceedingly cautious politician who has the executive skill sets that the job requires, and which most of his competitors lack.
The prevailing logic is that Jacobs would wage the most well funded challenge that the party could muster, given his extensive relationships in the business and political communities.
Jacobs can offer an extensive list of accomplishments in the Clerks office, including new operations practices that have enhanced the office’s efficiency and service delivery; the County’s “Thank a Vet” program; the “Renew Locally” public awareness campaign; the office’s spearheading of an “opt out” initiative following the Cuomo Administration’s NYSAFE Act; and an online reservation system that has significantly shorted wait times for DMV appointments.
Stefan Mychailiew, County Comptroller
Stefan Mychailiew is a ambitious up and comer who has been elected to countywide office in a presidential election year — no small accomplishment.
His working class, single dad narrative and east Buffalo Ukrainian roots have played well in countywide elections. His former role as a television news journalist has earned him strong local name recognition.
He had been more publicly flirting with the race, but has quieted down since a controversial decision to propose outsourcing his office’s auditors. The decision drew sharp criticism that exposed concerns among Republicans who tend to stress strong management experience, especially in the aftermath of the Joel Giambra administration’s fiscal debacle nearly a decade ago.
Patrick Gallivan, State Senator
State Senator Patrick Gallivan is Erie County’s former Sheriff, elected countywide repeatedly. The Senator is charismatic and has strong law enforcement credentials. As Sheriff, he managed a huge bureaucracy and critical emergency response services. There has been some criticism of the County Holding Center’s inordinately high suicide rates, raising concerns over the operation and staffing of that facility, even attracting civil rights complaints.
Late last year, Gallivan had been telling close friends that he intended to run, but chatter has softened since the relevation that US Attorney Preet Bharara was looking into his unitemized campaign spending.