A guest column by BOB LONSBERRY
The Southern Tier and the Finger Lakes are in my blood.
When I spit in the tube and sent it off to have my DNA analyzed, the report that came back included a map with a circle around those two regions of upstate New York.
Various lines of my family settled there right after the Revolution, and they stayed, and that place and its culture are intrinsic to me, my values and the way I see the world.
I was born there, I live there, and I’m going to be buried there.
So, I give a damn about what happens there.
Which brings us to the 23rd District of New York, that array of counties and communities collected together for representation in the United States Congress. The man who used to represent it – a friend of mine named Tom Reed – developed a drinking problem and gave great offense to a young woman, and appropriately left politics.
That left an empty chair, and a scramble among sitting Republican members of the House to decide which seat they would claim for themselves after a court-supervised redistricting. First, Rep. Claudia Tenney from Utica wanted the safe Republican Southern Tier seat, and Rep. Chris Jacobs from Buffalo would take New York 24, stretching through the Finger Lakes and along the Lake Ontario shore.
Neither lived in the district they sought to represent.
Then the lines got rejiggered, and Tenney decided she instead wanted to take NY 24 and, consequently, Jacobs would take NY 23.
That’s how it is when you live in a poor and rural area, far from the seats of political power. The higher ups decide who they will lord over and Joe and Betty America patiently wait to be told who their new masters are.
And the deal was done and the decision was made and that’s all she wrote.
Until Chris Jacobs, millionaire Republican, had an epiphany on guns. He decided he wanted so-called assault rifles banned nationwide. That – purposely or not – ended his prospects of being the congressman from the Southern Tier, where there isn’t much confusion on the meaning of the Second Amendment.
In that time frame, former President Donald Trump asked New York state Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy to primary Chris Jacobs, and try to get elected to the House.
That possibility didn’t please North County congresswoman and Harvard alum Elise Stefanik. A heavy-handed and in-your-face leader of the state Republican delegation who, through association with Donald Trump, has risen to the Number 3 position in the GOP House leadership. She has a grudge against Nick Langworthy because he didn’t support her ambition to run for governor and instead backed the gubernatorial campaign of Long Island Congressman Lee Zeldin.
She is hungry for revenge, and to show that she is the Republican boss of New York.
So when Chris Jacobs self-destructed and petitions started passing with Nick Langworthy’s name on them, Elise Stefanik quickly made a public endorsement of Buffalo millionaire and gadfly Carl Paladino to run for the Southern Tier seat.
That was a bolt out of the blue, as no one knew Paladino was interested. Further, most Republicans have consigned Carl Paladino to the wingnut pile after his catastrophic campaign for governor in 2010, his removal for cause from the Buffalo school board, and some pretty offensive remarks along the way about Barack and Michelle Obama.
Over this past weekend, Elise Stefanik assured various Republican leaders in the Southern Tier that Donald Trump was going to endorse Carl Paladino at her fundraiser Monday night at Mar-a-Lago. The implication was that people would be wise to be on the right side of Trump.
But the endorsement didn’t happen.
The fact is, Donald Trump has long associations and good relationships with both Nick Langworthy and Carl Paladino and doesn’t want to get in the middle of this pissing match. So he is going to publicly endorse neither, at least not any time soon.
Another wrinkle in this is that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wants Nick Langworthy and is very wary of Carl Paladino. He’s the Number 1 Republican in the House. Elise Stefanik is Number 3. Nonetheless, she is sticking with Paladino and that disagreement in the leadership lingers.
Nick Langworthy has received the endorsement of the Conservative Party in the race. Carl Paladino has until Friday to submit petitions and be in the Republican primary.
Another variable in the matter is a millionaire Harvard and Yale man living in Fredonia named Marc Cenedella. He wanted to run for the United States Senate a decade ago and has been thrashing about for political office since then.
That’s what it boils down to.
Three millionaires, a rising power in the national Republican Party, and Nick Langworthy.
Who, interestingly, when he spits in the tube, gets the same map with his DNA results.
Which, the way I look at things, ought to count for something.
(Bob Lonsberry, a Canisteo native, is the father of nine children, a veteran of the United States Army, and a newsman for nearly three decades. The former newspaper columnist, reporter, and author, is a marathon runner. You can hear Bob mornings on NewsRadio WHAM 1180 in Rochester and NewsRadio 570 WSYR and 106.9 FM in Syracuse. You can reach him at [email protected])