By Jim Ellis
June 23, 2020 — Voters in five states — New York, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Virginia — will cast nomination votes today, and some interesting races are on tap.
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx), faces challenges from former CNBC anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera and two minor candidates today.
Though the intra-party challenges to Reps. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx) have drawn the most political attention, Buffalo area state Sen. Chris Jacobs (R) is embroiled in a unique special congressional election to replace resigned-Rep. Chris Collins (R).
The special wasn’t designed to have such an interesting, and largely confusing format, but a quirk in New York election procedure has caused Jacobs to be campaigning simultaneously before two different electorates. He faces Democratic former Grand Island town supervisor Nate McMurray, who held Rep. Collins to a 48-47 percent victory in 2018 in the special general, and two strong Republican challengers in the regular 2020 primary.
It’s not particularly unusual to see a special election and a regular primary election being run concurrently, but it is strange to see a special general and a regular primary paired. Therefore, this forces Jacobs to campaign closer to the political center, a place where he typically falls, in his battle with McMurray to serve the balance of the current term, while also protecting his right flank against two opponents who are attacking him for being outside the Republican Party mainstream. McMurray has no such problem because he is unopposed on the Democratic side.
The 27th District is vacant because Rep. Collins resigned the seat when pleading guilty to an insider financial trading federal charge. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) scheduled the replacement election on the same day as the regular primary. Since the New York political parties give power to choose replacement nominees to the various county chairmen in the district, there is no special election primary. Therefore, voters only cast one ballot to fill a congressional vacancy.
While Sen. Jacobs needs the Republican rank and file to turn out heavily to support him against McMurray, two GOP candidates not chosen by the party leaders, Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw and attorney and former town judge Beth Parlato, are consistently hitting him from the right, thus cross pressuring his message to the GOP base.
In the closing days, Parlato, who also carries the Conservative Party ballot line, has launched an additional attack on Jacobs indicating that he’s being investigated for voter fraud. While a citizen charge was filed, the local District Attorney has already dropped the action as having no substantiation. Still, Jacobs’ has had to defend himself on another political front.
The 27th District is an upstate seat that begins in the eastern Buffalo suburbs and extends north all the way to Lake Ontario, and then drops south of Rochester and east as far as the town of Canandaigua. The district includes four whole counties and parts of four others, including Erie and Niagara. It is a reliably Republican district (Trump ’16: 60-35 percent; Romney ’12: 55-43 percent).
The CD did flip to the Democrats, however, the last time a special congressional election was held here. Kathy Hochul, now New York’s lieutenant governor, won the seat in 2011. She was then subsequently defeated in the 2012 regular election by Collins, however.