Primaries may loom in three congressional districts | Govt. & Political News
WASHINGTON — Western New York’s 2022 congressional races are beginning to take shape — but it’s amoeba-like shapes that could suddenly change thanks to rulings by a state court or the State Board of Elections.
A Steuben County state judge earlier this month ruled that House district lines established by the state’s Democratic legislature were unconstitutional. But those lines remain in place while that decision is on appeal, so it’s not yet known exactly what the district’s map will look like for the June 28 primary or the November 8 general election.
And while the primary candidates challenge the three incumbent House members running in those three yet-to-be-finalized constituencies, the Board of Elections will have to decide whether those candidates actually qualify for the ballot. An objection has been filed against petitions from Mario Fratto, a Geneva lawyer and small business owner who is launching a Republican primary challenge against Rep. Chris Jacobs of Orchard Park. And a similar suit has been filed against petitions from Emin “Eddie” Egriu, a local entrepreneur who hopes to challenge Representative Brian Higgins of Buffalo again in a Democratic primary.
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Here’s a closer look at the three potential congressional districts that include parts of the Buffalo metro area and the races looming in each:
Jacobs and his challengers
Just six weeks ago, it looked like up to four Republicans would challenge Jacobs, the former Erie County clerk and state senator first elected to Congress in June 2020.
But only one Republican challenger has filed the required number of petition signatures to appear in the June 28 primary: Fratto.
And as often happens at this stage of the campaign trail, an ally of Jacobs, local attorney Joseph Burns, challenged Fratto’s petitions, saying he hadn’t collected enough valid signatures.
The National Board of Elections hopes to rule on the challenges to the petitions in time for its May 2 meeting. Then, on May 4, the Council of State must certify the primary ballot, with local councils having to do the same the next day.
But for now, Fratto sees challenging his petitions as a sign of Jacobs’ weakness.
“Chris Jacobs has shown his hand and is scared,” Fratto said. “He knows he can’t win at the polls, so he wants to take the choice away from voters by using his political connections and the establishment to get us out of this race.”
Fratto brands Jacobs as a “RINO”, or Republican in name only, and runs to his right as an “America First Republican”. Plus, he’s investing in his own race: The quarterly financial report Fratto filed with the Federal Election Commission on Friday showed he loaned his campaign $100,000.
Between that loan and the donations, Fratto has brought in $206,338 in campaign cash as of March 31. That’s a believable sum for a primary challenger at this stage of the campaign, but he’ll need more to be financially competitive with Jacobs in the new, huge 24th Congressional District, which begins along Lake Ontario in Youngstown, extends south from Rochester, then extends north to Watertown.
Jacobs raised $202,604 in the first quarter and had more than twice as much cash on hand as Fratto as of March 31: $481,505.
“Chris Jacobs has proven time and time again that he is a talented legislator, a tireless activist and one of the state’s top fundraisers,” said Cam Savage, Jacobs’ political consultant. “No one has fought harder to stand up to the Biden administration’s reckless spending, government mandates and disastrous open border policies and he will continue to fight for Western New York.
Steven Holden, a Syracuse-area Army veteran and progressive activist, is the only Democratic candidate to file petitions to run in the heavily Republican 24th District. Its first-quarter campaign finance report was not available Friday night.
Higgins and his challengers
Egriu is aiming for a fourth time to face Higgins in the Buffalo-based 26th District, but he potentially faces the same challenge that has hampered his previous campaigns: getting elected.
A voter named Lisa Saunders objected to petitions filed by Egriu, who was knocked out of the ballot thanks to similar objections in the past.
But Egriu said he was sure his petitions were in good shape this time for a race against Higgins, whom he sees as an establishment Democrat who needs a strong challenge from the left.
“I feel like he’s always letting go of critical issues that affect the whole community,” Egriu said. “All of the resources that he continually brings to Western New York are always for the canal (Canalside) and the waterfront, and nothing at all for the communities.”
Egriu spent $63,791 in campaign funds in the first quarter — much of it funded by loans from the candidate — leaving him with just $11,938 on hand as of March 31, according to his campaign finance report.
He will have to raise a lot of money quickly to pose a serious financial challenge to Higgins. Campaigning for his 10th term, Higgins raised $171,158 in the first quarter – and showed $1.55 million in hand as of March 31.
“Congressman Higgins is honored to have broad support in Western New York, with more than 12,000 voters from every ward in the district signing nomination petitions in support of his re-election, including a large number in new areas added as a result of the redistricting,” Higgins campaign spokesman Chuck Eaton said. “Brian has worked hard to bring federal resources to every corner of his district, and he looks forward to to run on his record of positive results for Western New York.”
The only Republican to file petitions to run in the heavily Democratic 26th District, the retired Army Sgt. Steven Sams II of Getzville, had only $2,220 on hand as of March 31. In the meantime, he declared campaign debts of $8,793.
Tenney and his challengers
Rep. Claudia Tenney, the Utica-area Republican running to replace incumbent Rep. Tom Reed in the Southern Tier’s 23rd District, has two main potential challengers — but none are approaching her with the same kind of effort. aggressive that Fratto and Egriu promise.
George K. Phillips, a Broome County teacher who previously challenged Tenney, has also filed motions to run against her this time around as well. Yet he has yet to file his campaign with the Federal Election Commission and therefore has not raised any money.
“My official statement is that we’re just seeing what’s going on with the redistricting lawsuit, and if we have anything public about our intentions after that, we’ll let you know,” Phillips said.
Ray Juliano of Springville, an asphalt contractor, also filed petitions to run as a Republican in the 23rd District. Presenting himself as “a non-politician willing to put the American people first,” Juliano criticized Tenney for choosing to run in the heavily Republican 23rd District rather than a Utica-area district that was designed in profit of the Democrats.
“She goes to the district that is easy for her,” Juliano said. “I think she puts her needs before people’s needs.”
But Juliano appears not to have considered all of his own needs when planning his campaign. Believing that money corrupts politics, he does not fundraise at all: in fact, his campaign website has a “do not donate” button.
“I’m just doing this 100% on my own, which might have been a losing strategy at first, but I think it’s the right way to do it,” Juliano said.
Tenney clearly disagrees. She raised $314,000 in the first quarter and had nearly $1.3 million on hand as of March 31.
“The outpouring of support and momentum from all corners of NY-23 is inspiring,” Tenney said in a statement.
The Democratic candidate for the 23rd District, Air Force veteran Max Della Pia, raised $15,070 during the quarter and $14,802 of that money remained at the end of the quarter.