A spate of recent articles in The Buffalo News detailing celebrity superstar Vanessa Williams‘ affection for Buffalo has sparked widespread speculation among local political operatives that she is contemplating a run for Congress in New York’s 26th district. The local political community is in a flurry of gossip.
Given the lack of a paper trail detailing her political views, she is seen by operatives of both parties as a potent contender: someone with extraordinary name recognition and stature in the body politic, who is also a fresh canvass when it comes to political alignments and policy positioning — whether she runs on the left or the right.
Among the rumors, it’s said that Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy is trying to figure out how to recruit Williams to run on the Republican nominating line. She is a Democrat and lives downstate, but neither factor is disqualifying in the election law for a Congressional office.
Langworthy has been the subject of criticism for failing to field a candidate for Congress against Rep. Brian Higgins, who represents a downtrodden post-industrial district that has been badly hurt by federal trade policies. Activists have been encouraging him to back former gubernatorial contender Carl Paladino for the seat, but Langworthy has resisted those calls, presumably concerned about Paladino’s public behavior.
Williams was born in the Bronx and raised in Westchester County, but has deep family roots on the East Side of Buffalo. She was recently married here to Jim Skrip, a Cheektowaga-raised businessman now living in New York. In many ways, the 26th district could be perfectly suited to Williams’ political brand, if she chooses to pursue it.
The incumbent in the 26th district is a longtime career politician: Common Council, 1988-98; State Assembly, 1999-04; House of Representatives, 2004-present; at a time when the electorate is deeply resentful of incumbent politicians.
A Williams win would likely make Langworthy the next State Chairman.
But others see a seat in the House of Representatives as beneath her stature. Given how captivating a public figure she has been over the last three decades, many political observers postulate that she could instead defeat Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in two years.