BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Perhaps the first Republican congressman in the country to support a so-called assault weapons ban, U.S. Rep. Chris Jacobs' statements on Friday caused quite a stir over the weekend.
New York state Republican Chair Nick Langworthy said it wasn't a controversy for which he was preparing.
"I was very surprised by Congressman Jacobs' surprise announcement," Langworthy said. "I think everybody was caught very flat-footed by his adopting the Democrat position on gun control."
Langworthy said it's been an emotional time in Western New York, where he and Jacobs both live, following the mass shooting at Tops roughly two weeks ago.
"There's a lot of people that are looking for solutions," he said. "I hope that we could have some bipartisan solutions and not just knuckling under to the Democratic talking points."
Jacobs appeared to have a relatively clear path to victory in the newly-drawn, heavily Republican 23rd Congressional District which consists of southern Erie County and the Souther Tier. He acknowledged himself Friday that his stance could be controversial with his new constituence.
Langworthy would not say whether he should remain the party's supported candidate.
"I've had a lot of conversations with Congressman Jacobs in the last weekend and we're going to see where this is at the end of the week," he said.
Fredonia businessman Marc Cenedella announced earlier this month he planned to run against Jacobs in a primary. Republican analyst Jeff Williams said he wouldn't be surprised if more candidates pop up.
"Large hunting population in this district, southern Erie County, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus. There's usually more 'Repeal the SAFE Act' signs than there are candidate signs," Williams saiid. "I think that there probably will be somebody that emerges that wants to run in a primary."
Redistricting litigation led to a second petitioning period. Prospective candidates have until June 10 to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot for the Aug. 23 primary.
Williams said it remains to be seen if Jacobs can survive one.
"We're going to have to revisit after primary day and after the election," he said. "Single-issue voting patterns cause a problem sometimes in deeply Republican and deeply Democrat districts."
Williams said the party could potentially circulate petitions for a place-holder candidate as well, who would later decline the nomination allowing the party to fill the vacancy with a candidate of its choice.