Conservative leaders are divided over who to endorse to run in a special election for New York's 26th Congressional District seat left vacant by Rep. Chris Lee.
The Monroe County Conservative Party unanimously endorsed Assemblywoman Jane Corwin yesterday.
The State Conservative Party, however is still on the fence.
Conservative leaders are divided over who to endorse in a special election for New York's 26th Congressional District seat left vacant by Rep. Chris Lee.
Yesterday, the Monroe County Conservative Party unanimously endorsed Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, of Clarence.
The State Conservative Party, however, is still on the fence.
Mike Long, state Conservative Party chairman, says his party hasn't yet decided whether it will endorse Corwin or back Republican David Bellavia. Bellavia, an Iraq war veteran, opened an exploratory committee this week to run on a third-party line in the special election.
The county’s decision to endorse Corwin was significant, says Long, but he’d like to “hear from more locals.”
“It certainly helps Jane achieve the endorsement, but we have not reached a decision,” said Long.
Corwin’s position on abortion rights is causing some conservative leaders to question her credibility as a viable candidate for New York’s 26th Congressional District.
Corwin has been criticized by some conservatives for supporting legal abortion in the first trimester.
She addressed her views on aborition at a press conference in Greece on Feb. 23, where she officially announced her candidacy.
“I oppose partial-birth abortions and oppose government funding of abortion. If I were in Washington this past week I would have voted to suspend funding to Planned Parenthood," she said.
Long says Corwin’s views on abortion will be weighed heavily in the decision.
"This is a main issue for the Conservative Party. It’s an issue that is taken into consideration,” said Long.
Long says Corwin’s fiscal conservative record, however, is a selling point.
“Do I wish she was pro-life? Yes I do, abortion is very important, but we’re not a single-issue party,” said Long. “I believe based on statements that Jane has a leg up on the endorsement because of her conservative endorsement record.”
Corwin, a member of the State Assembly since 2008, was named the second-most conservative member of the New York State Assembly by the New York State Conservative Party's annual rankings in 2009 and 2010.
Bellavia addressed Corwin’s centrist views on abortion in a statement, saying, “With the Republican County Chairmen in the 26th Congressional District choosing a pro-abortion candidate, we now see a clear path to the New York State Conservative Party endorsement, a party which was formed on core principles, including the defense of the life of an unborn child."
Bellavia has not been immediately available for comment.
Meanwhile, Tea Party leaders are also split over the GOP's decision to nominate Corwin.
TEA New York released a statement this week, accusing the GOP of rushing a nomination and "acting hastily."
“David Bellavia seems like he would have been a better candidate, however the Republicans rushed and went ahead,” said Jul Thompson, chief organizer and co-founder of TEA New York. “Now we don’t see any point in endorsing.”
Page 2 of 2 - But Thompson noted that economics may trump social issues in this debate.
“We are generally more concerned on fiscal issues, as far as Corwin is concerned obviously we differ with her, we would take a stronger stance on abortion,” said Thompson. “We are fairly happy with the GOP’s decision to endorse Corwin. She’s a relatively conservative candidate. We just wanted to give people a choice.”
Others in the Tea Party have offered their full support.
Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino endorsed Corwin this week, saying, “I'm a proud member of the Tea Party movement in New York, and together we helped change the face of Congress in November. Jane Corwin will be another member in our movement to take our country back.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not yet said when he will call a special election. On Feb. 23, Cuomo proposed extending the time frame for military voting in special elections with a bill that could delay the process of filling western New York’s vacant congressional seat by at least several weeks.
Cuomo said the legislation is needed to allow enough time for military ballots to be mailed and counted in the 26th Congressional District race, in compliance with recent federal law. Current law requires special elections to be held 30 to 40 days from their announcement. Cuomo’s bill would lengthen the time to 70 to 80 days to accommodate a federal provision requiring elections officials to finalize and transmit overseas military ballots within 45 days.
Democrats have yet to nominate a candidate to run against Corwin.
Adam Bello, executive director of the Monroe County Democratic Committee, said Democrats are asking any interested candidates to reach out to their county chairs within the next week to express their interest, after which the county chairs will review their resumes and decide on a candidate.
"We're trying to have as open a process as possible," said Bello.
Includes reporting from Henrietta Post reporter Erinn Cain and The Associated Press