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Republican nominee Jane Corwin appears to be avoiding many of the pitfalls that produced the GOP’s last New York special election disaster, but Jack Davis could still make things interesting.
Corwin formally captured the endorsements of the Conservative and Independence Parties in recent days, securing her place on the May 24 ballot on those two ballot lines in addition to the Republican line.
But Davis, an independently wealthy businessman who failed to capture the GOP nomination over Corwin, has since hired a “petition signature-gathering firm” to help ensure he gets a spot on the special election ballot to succeed former Rep. Chris Lee (R). Further, Davis, a former Democrat, has taken advantage of New York’s quirky election laws and will likely get the “Tea Party” ballot line, a move that has angered the area’s largest tea party group, which hasn’t been particularly fond of Davis thus far.
“We have volunteers and we have paid people as well. This is obviously a steep climb,” Davis campaign manager Curtis Ellis told Roll Call on Monday, describing the tight window to gather thousands of signatures from western New York residents. “We have hired a petition signature-gathering firm to do that -— the people that did the Gray Davis recall campaign, you know? These are people who gather signatures; they know what they’re doing.”
Ellis refused to provide the name of the firm and later clarified that he wasn’t sure whether the company is the same one used in the massive effort to recall the former California governor in 2003.
Third-party candidates such as Davis who fail to win any one of the state’s major ballot lines have 12 days from the time that the governor formally declares the vacancy to gather 3,500 signatures. That declaration came last week, and candidates have six more days to gather signatures. Iraq War veteran David Bellavia, another GOP hopeful who lost the endorsement of the local Republican county chairmen to Corwin, has also been collecting signatures.
While there’s no doubt Corwin, a well-funded state Assemblywoman, is the strong favorite in the Republican-leaning district, the situation is making some people nervous. Davis or Bellavia could play spoiler should they attract a significant portion of the Republican electorate, handing the seat to a Democrat, as was the case in New York’s 23rd district special election in 2009.
Davis’ actions in particular have caught the attention of political strategists.
“The narrative that has always been there with Jack is that he’s willing to say and do anything to win,” one Washington, D.C.-based campaign aide said. “He’s on a mission.”