NY-23: Republican Rep. Chris Jacobs seems to have done significant damage to his re-election prospects after unexpectedly saying he would support an assault weapons ban in the wake of recent mass shootings, including one in Buffalo near Jacobs' home turf. Just two weeks ago, there was little reason to think Jacobs would have any trouble securing the GOP nomination in the new 23rd District with the June 10 filing deadline quickly approaching, but his comments on guns have prompted a fierce backlash from local Republicans and conservative activists who are now scrambling to get behind a primary challenger.
On Thursday, one such challenger emerged when Tompkins County Legislator Mike Sigler announced he would run in the redrawn district. Sigler had been running in the 22nd District until court-ordered redistricting scrambled the lines and moved Tompkins County, a heavily blue constituency, into the neighboring 19th District, which is much more competitive than the safely red 23rd. Although Sigler doesn't live in the revamped 23rd, he says he already commutes to work in the district in Tioga County and would move there if he wins.
Adding to Jacobs' troubles, Erie County Conservative Party chair Ralph Lorigo said his party was withdrawing its support from Jacobs. Lorigo described state GOP chair Nick Langworthy as "perfect for the situation," and although Langworthy has yet to comment about whether he might run, his supporters are reportedly circulating ballot petitions in case he does.
Sigler, meanwhile, said he's watching to see what Langworthy does and might re-evaluate his decision if the party chair joins the race, but other Republicans could also challenge the incumbent. Joining Lorigo in withdrawing his previous endorsement of Jacobs was Republican state Sen. George Borrello, who earlier said he wouldn't run in the 23rd but now isn't ruling it out.
Jacobs already had one major potential vulnerability: He only represents 36% of his new district. Another 58% of the new 23rd comes from the existing 23rd, which is presently vacant thanks to former GOP Rep. Tom Reed's resignation. The old 23rd (which is also strongly red) will hold a special election to replace Reed on the same day as the Aug. 23 primary for the new district. County GOP chairs in the old district will soon hand-pick a nominee for the special election, who could decide to take on Jacobs for a full term.