Sept. 19, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Davis Seeks ‘Tea Party’ Line in N.Y.

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Jack Davis is attempting his fourth run for Congress in New York’s 26th district. The wealthy businessman could make things interesting if he spends heavily in the special election to fill the vacancy caused by ex-Rep. Chris Lee’s resignation.

Davis, who has said he will spend up to $3 million of his personal fortune on the race, also has ample political baggage. And the National Republican Congressional Committee will work to ensure it’s well-known in the coming months should it determine that he poses a substantial threat to Corwin.

The Davis campaign had previously been accused of petition fraud, and allegations surfaced in 2008 that the three-time failed Democratic candidate paid off Independence Party leaders to help secure their endorsement.

Those issues aside, there’s reason to believe Corwin is in a much stronger position than GOP nominee Dede Scozzafava in the 2009 special election. Scozzafava failed to capture the Conservative Party line because she was deemed too socially moderate and then she ultimately dropped out of the race and backed the Democrat. 

The order of the ballot, always a factor in low-turnout elections, will be topped by the Democratic line, followed by Republican, Conservative, Working Families (which usually goes to the Democratic nominee) and Green Party. 

Should Davis and Bellavia qualify, they would appear at the bottom.

New York law allows third-party candidates to create their own ballot line if they collect the necessary signatures. Bellavia, the ideological favorite of western New York’s largest tea party group, will seek the “Federalist” line after Davis claimed the “Tea Party” line.

“We obviously have some objection to that. For one thing, he hasn’t participated in any of the tea party functions at all. He hasn’t been a member,” said Julianne “Jul” Thompson, a co-founder of TEA New York.

She noted that Davis’ inactivity with the movement wouldn’t necessarily disqualify him from earning her group’s endorsement, should it choose to endorse, so long as his policies are consistent with tea party values. But Davis didn’t give them a chance to decide. 

“It’s a done deal. He’s not seeking [the endorsement]. He just did it. He applied under the Board of Elections with that name, and now it’s his,” Thompson said. “That’s confusing to the public. If they go in to vote and see his name under the tea party line, they’d assume he’s the tea-party-endorsed candidate. But we haven’t made a decision. We find that problematic.”

The Bellavia campaign did not return a message left Monday. The Davis campaign, however, reported that its signature-collecting effort is going well.

“We’ve been out gathering signatures since the moment the governor filed his proclamation with the Board of Elections,” Ellis said, declining to disclose exactly how many signatures had been gathered so far. “We are meeting and exceeding our goals.”

Davis isn’t depending solely on the paid services of the signature-collecting firm either. Volunteers from a competing tea party organization, the Western New York Tea Party Coalition, have pledged support for Davis. TEA New York, however, questions the ability of the smaller group to influence the process, describing it as “a rogue” organization.

Democrats, meanwhile, have begun interviewing candidates by phone, but they do not appear to be rushing. The frontrunner is widely considered to be Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul.

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