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Jack Davis did not win the Republican or Conservative Party lines for the unscheduled special election to replace Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.). But the wealthy businessman is continuing to court tea party activists in the 26th district to help boost a third-party run.
“I just know that he’s been calling us and wants to get together with my husband,” Julianne “Jul” Thompson of TEA New York told Roll Call on Tuesday afternoon. Thompson and her husband, Rus, co-founded the group, which is the area’s largest tea party organization.
Davis, who ran for the seat in 2006 and 2008 as a Democrat, sought the Republican nomination last month, but the district’s county GOP chairmen unanimously selected state Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, who also recently captured the endorsement of the state Conservative Party.
The local tea party movement has been on the fence about Corwin, who has a conservative voting record in the state Assembly but supports abortion rights during the first trimester of a pregnancy.
Thompson largely dismissed Davis’ chances of winning widespread support from the conservative base. “He doesn’t seem like a very viable candidate,” she said.
But she noted that Davis is getting help from “a rogue tea party faction,” known as the Western New York Tea Party Coalition. As in most states, there are various organizations associated with the larger tea party movement, and they often do not agree.
A message left with the tea party coalition was not immediately returned.
In this case, Thompson suggested that TEA New York would not back Davis under any circumstances, instead preferring Corwin or Iraq War veteran David Bellavia, who tried and failed to secure the Conservative Party line.
Davis “is good on some things, so far as we know — on trade issues, things of that nature. But I think he’s just a little inconsistent,” Thompson said. “And Jane Corwin — I think we’re really leaning toward Jane Corwin. It’s really about Bellavia and Corwin for us.”
The timing for the special election is still in doubt. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has wide latitude in the process, which could take place nearly three months after he formally declares the seat vacant.
Democrats have yet to select their nominee, but Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul is thought to be their favorite. Whomever they get behind, Democrats’ best chance for victory in this heavily Republican district is a three-way race that splits the Republicans.
That’s what happened in the nearby 23rd district in a 2009 special election and again in the 2010 general. That possibility in the 26th, however, has decreased significantly given the Conservative Party’s recent decision to endorse the Republican candidate, Corwin.