Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino, the 2010 Republican nominee for Governor of New York, is in talks with Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy to secure the party’s nomination for Congress in New York’s 26th congressional district. Paladino is being encouraged to seek the seat in order to drive up voter turnout in Western New York.
Earlier this year local Republicans failed to field a candidate against five-term incumbent Rep. Brian Higgins, a conservative Democrat from South Buffalo, but the chairman can fill that ballot vacancy with a procedural maneuver in the election law.
Polling has indicated that an anticipated ‘blue wave’ of left-leaning voter turnout is increasingly unlikely, as President Donald Trump‘s support among Republicans has increased since being elected. Many local operatives think that Higgins is highly vulnerable to a challenger, despite the Democrat enrollment advantage in the district.
New York’s 26th district comprises the City of Buffalo and its first ring suburbs — communities that have been hit hard by industrial restructuring, outsourcing, off-shoring, and free trade. The City of Buffalo has suffered more than 65 consecutive years of decline.
The North American Free Trade Agreement is deeply unpopular in this largely blue-collar community, which remembers the region’s once-mighty automotive and steel industries longingly. They are also quick to note the strength of Ontario’s steel and automotive industries just across in the river in Hamilton. President Trump lost Erie County 45-50, but if the election were held today almost all operatives agree that Trump’s message on trade would likely win him the county.
Sensing the political mood, two weeks ago Higgins pledged to withhold his support of Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House, in the event that Democrats take control of the chamber.
If Paladino does commit to seeking the congressional seat, he would be expected to win his home turf of South Buffalo, West Seneca, North Tonawanda, the City of Tonawanda, and Cheektowaga by large margins — all of which are Democrat strongholds. Conventional wisdom puts the right-leaning communities of Grand Island and Williamsville in Paladino’s column; with the heavily Italian Town of Tonawanda seen as a battleground.
Increased right-leaning turnout in Grand Island and Tonawanda would help a key down-ballot race for State Senate, in which freshman Chris Jacobs is expected to face a difficult reelection test. It’s a key race for the statewide party, as the GOP’s slim control of the chamber could be lost to a recently unified Democrat caucus. A looming public corruption scandal could engulf the Senator later this year.