Politics

Paladino: Republicans Not Backing Trump 'Cowards'

Buffalo businessman's 2010 run foreshadowed this anti-establishment year

Donald Trump is set to hold a rally in Buffalo on Monday. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

BUFFALO, N.Y. — With Donald Trump poised to win the New York Republican presidential primary Tuesday, another New York businessman-turned-politician is saying he won't forget the congressional Republicans who did not back Trump's candidacy.  

"They’re cowards," Carl Paladino said of New York's GOP lawmakers who have not declared their support for the front-runner.  

"I don’t care if they don’t want to get on board now. It’s too late," Paladino, a former New York GOP gubernatorial candidate, said in an interview Friday in Buffalo. "They don’t want to get on board? Fine. And I’ll let everybody know on election day that they weren’t on board.”  

Paladino said that would amount to spreading the word on his "boom list," an email list of 50,000 people, mostly New York conservatives and a few journalists. He stopped short of saying he would actively campaign or run ads against the GOP lawmakers who were not supportive of Trump.  

"I get the word out there,” he explained, sitting at a conference table stacked with papers in his downtown office at Ellicott Development Co., just steps above Trump's Buffalo campaign office, which opened this week.  

The Buffalo businessman and school board member was an early backer of Trump's campaign. Paladino met the Manhattan businessman in the fall of 2013 when Trump was weighing a run for New York governor. Three years earlier, Paladino secured the GOP nomination for governor, but was defeated by current Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.  

Paladino's gubernatorial campaign presaged the voter frustration with the party establishment that is fueling Trump's campaign: His gubernatorial campaign's black and orange yard signs read, "I'm mad as hell too, Carl!"  

Paladino said he has worked over the past four to five months to activate his network from his gubernatorial run to support Trump's campaign. He began organizing Trump's events in upstate New York in early April.  

Part of his effort has been pushing congressional Republicans to support Trump, and he said he had a hand in swaying two of the state's nine GOP House members, Chris Collins and Tom Reed.  

“I’m one of the guys that convinced Congressman Chris Collins to get on the bus," Paladino said. “I explained this is the direction that we’re heading. [Collins] was being told by his leadership in the Republican caucus that they should keep their powder dry. And I told him that’s not what his constituents would expect of him, because he is a leader.”  

The businessman has been more forceful in pressuring other lawmakers to join the campaign, and said he has sent "caustic" letters to GOP members.  

According to Syracuse.com , Paladino has sent two open letters to the state's lawmakers, and said in a March 14 letter, "This is our last request that you join 'Trump for President' and try to preserve what's left of your pathetic careers in government."  

He also called for a conservative to pose a primary challenge to upstate New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, according to the Albany Times-Union.  The federal filing deadline passed this week, and Paladino said those lawmakers hesitant to back Trump won't face further consequences from him, beyond spreading the word through his email list.  

"The consequences are the voters are going to throw them out of office,” Paladino said. He argued that his push to gain their support ahead of the Tuesday's primary was for the lawmakers' benefit.  

Paladino and Collins are two of the three honorary co-chairs of Trump's New York campaign. Collins was the first member of Congress to support Trump, and also co-chairs the campaign's effort to garner more support for Trump among congressional Republicans.  

Both are expected to attend Trump's Monday night rally at the First Niagara Center, which seats 18,000. Paladino predicted a "revved up" crowd in Buffalo.  

Collins also said he expects a raucous scene  both inside and outside the hockey arena, home to the NHL's Buffalo Sabres.  

"Monday is going to be crazy," Collins said Thursday after meeting with congressional Republicans in D.C. to discuss Trump's campaign. "It's going to be like the Stanley Cup final. Let's face it, the Buffalo Sabres have not exactly been doing great on the ice, but they're going to fill the arena.  

"There's going to be crowds outside watching on the jumbotron, almost like you would expect if it was the Stanley Cup finals," Collins said. "You know, the excitement is grassroots. It's gut-check time in Western New York to support someone who is going to bring the jobs back, and help our middle class and help our families, so hold on on Monday night."

Contact Bowman at  bridgetbowman@rollcall.com  and follow her on Twitter at @bridgetbhc .

Contact Lesniewski at nielslesniewski@cqrollcall.com and follow him on Twitter at @nielslesniewski.

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