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February 21, 2011

Eight Republicans line up for Lee’s seat

26th District — Jack Davis, the first of the eight hopefuls being interviewed for the Republican Party endorsement to run for Chris Lee’s vacated 26th District job in the U.S. Congress, didn’t leave the Batavia restaurant on a positive note Sunday.

“It didn’t go great,” the Akron businessman said upon his return home. “I won’t know. I won’t predict what will happen. They were aggravated with me switching parties. I told them if they don’t give me the endorsement that I’ll get another one. They didn’t like that either, but I let them know what it was like.”

Davis, a long-time Goldwater Republican, ran as a Democratic primary candidate in the 2008 election and lost.

The Davis interview began at 10 a.m. and lasted 50 minutes while other candidates waited in the lower floor of the South Beach Restaurant. The process ended at 5 p.m. and the chairmen will reconvene tonight in Geneseo.

Dr. Barry Weinstein, the Amherst supervisor; Jane Corwin, state assemblywoman; Kathy Weppner, talk show host; David Bellavia, Iraqi war veteran; Brian Napoli, supervisor of the Town of Ridgeway in Orleans County; Gary Wheat, former town councilman in the town of Avon in Livingston County; and Peter O’Brien, a recent U.S. Navy veteran from Genesee County, took their turns after Davis.

They were interviewed separately by chairman from seven Western New York counties and 14 other Republican party members representing a cross-section of the communities.

Niagara County was represented by Republican Chairman Mike Norris and state committeemen.

“We had a great slate of candidates and the chairmen are going to think about what we heard today and reconvene and select the best candidate,” Norris said.

The GOP chairmen are hopeful that they will vote and come to a decision tonight, Norris said.

Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy carries the biggest clout in the seven Western New York Counties. The weighted election is based on the votes for Lee in the 2008 vote.

Erie County’s vote is worth 34 percent and Monroe County is second with 20 percent. Niagara County has 17 percent. Livingston (9 percent); Genesee (8 percent); Wyoming (6 percent) and Orleans County carries 4 percent.

“All the chairman are familiar with the math and I’m confident we will come out unified in the end,” Norris said. There was a similar process when Tom Reynolds retired in 2008.

David Bellavia of Genesee County endorsed Lee in the 2008 election as the Vets for Freedom co-chairman.

The special election for Lee’s seat has yet to be called by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and Norris wants it soon.

“We have not heard anything and I call upon the governor to do the right thing,” Norris said. “The people of the 26th Congressional District are currently without a voice in Washington during this very important time in our nation’s history. We need representation. Schedule an election immediately.”

Norris had little reaction to the Davis threat of running without the GOP endorsement.

“I’m going to concentrate now in selecting the best candidate in the district,” the attorney said. “That’s where all my energy is.”

Although registered Republicans outnumber Democrats in the 26th district, Niagara County Democrat Chairman Daniel Rivera and Erie County Chair Len Lenihan are confident the Democrats can put up a strong candidate to challenge. Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul is the favorite for the endorsement.

There are an estimated 26,000 more enrolled Republicans than Democrats in the conservative 26th District.

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