WEST SENECA, N.Y. — Erie County Conservative boss Ralph Lorigo said you can't argue with the results.
He leads one of the most influential local minor parties in the state.
"We put the highest number of votes, Conservative votes on the line for (gubernatorial candidate) Marc Molinaro in the last November's election in any of the 62 counties, even though Suffolk and Nassau have almost twice the number of people we have. So we are doing something right in Erie County," Lorigo said.
But in politics, money matters too. For years the state's conservative party power has been geographically consolidated to New York City where the big donors are.
The county chair from Brooklyn, Jerry Kassar, and Lorigo are both vying to become the new state chair. Kassar said he's participated in Conservative Party activities since 1977.
"Advocacy for Conservative Party principles has always been a way of life for me," he said. "Now with the retirement of my longtime mentor Mike Long, I felt comfortable announcing for state chairman, a position I believe I can ably hold."
Lorigo said he expects Kassar is the frontrunner.
"My probabilities of success today for becoming New York State chair are 30 percent because the downstate people will control this vote and my opponent happens to be the Brooklyn chair," he said.
However, he said if he is not elected by the executive committee on February 23, he could still get the job during next year’s reorganization when the entire state committee is involved.
"I do believe that I appeal to the heart of those people because they're going to value the party over friendship," he said.
Lorigo said Suffolk County Chair Frank Tinari could get in the race too. If Lorigo does win, he said he would step down as Erie chair.
As for fundraising, he doesn't think the party would lose its New York City donors and says he would appoint someone downstate to handle that component and help plan the annual state dinner there. He does believe, however, there are opportunities to do more on social media, get new people involved and increase the party's enrollment.