According to Cook Political Report's partisan voting index, New York's 23rd Congressional District is a "Republican +6 district," which means that it’s a solidly Republican district within the blue boundaries of New York state.
Starting in 2023, the district will include parts of the Southern Tier as well as portions of Erie, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany, Steuben, Chemung and Schuyler counties. It was slightly redrawn during this year’s redistricting process to exclude much of the Finger Lakes, but it’s still considered heavily Republican territory.
The district is going to be a busy place over the next four weeks with two races to watch: A special election to fill the seat vacated by former U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, as well as a GOP primary election that’s attracted a handful of wannabes as well as two western New York political heavyweights — businessman Carl Paladino and state Republican Party Chairman Nick Langworthy.
Both the special and the primary elections will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 23.
Candidates running in the special election are Joe Sempolinski, the Steuben County Republican chairman and Democrat Max Della Pia, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel from Tioga County.
The winner of this contest will serve out Rep. Reed’s term, which ends on Dec. 31.
Separate from the special election is the race to see who will win the Republican Party line to run in the newly drawn NY-23 in November. According to Ballotpedia, there are six candidates in the race on the Republican side: Hugh Bahar; George Burns; Richard Moon; and Mike Sigler; as well as the two front runners previously mentioned — Nick Langworthy and Carl Paladino.
According to Spectrum News 1's Ryan Whalen, “The [primary] election opened up… when Rep. Chris Jacobs dropped out of the race. Jacobs faced immense pressure from the GOP and Conservative Party to withdraw after expressing his support for several new gun laws including a federal ban on AR-15-style rifles.”
Whoever wins the August contest will go on to face Max Della Pia, who will appear on the Democratic line in the general election.
“In some ways, it’s an outsider versus an insider type of race here,” noted Shawn Donahue, a University at Buffalo clinical assistant professor of political science. “Do you want the person who’s going to say controversial things versus somebody that’s just going to have a conservative voting record?"
Paladino is the outsider in this scenario, though he ran for governor in 2010 against Andrew Cuomo and served for years on the Buffalo School Board. He’s a well-known businessman with a penchant for throwing verbal Molotov cocktails both on and off the campaign trail — some of which have been highly offensive.
Nevertheless, Republican notables continue to endorse him.
As GOP chairman, Langworthy is currently the top Republican operative in the state as well as a candidate. He has had some success finding and funding Republican candidates in blue New York, but doesn’t have any experience running for office.
Both candidates are considered to be tried and true proponents of the MAGA philosophy, but Langworthy’s style is more traditional.
Paladino, however, is a known quantity in western New York and a proven vote-getter.
“In looking back to 2010 when Paladino ran against Rick Lazio, at least in Erie County, he won 94% of the vote in Erie County in that primary. It’s been 12 years ago, but that’s an incredible number to put up in a two-person race,” Donahue said.
Not only is the Aug. 23 primary the second primary election New York state will hold this year, it’s smack in the middle of summer vacation season, which has many political analysts predicting an extremely low turnout.