As recently as a few months ago, no one really expected a competitive Republican primary in New York’s 23rd congressional district. But everything changed in June when the GOP incumbent, Rep. Chris Jacobs, endorsed an assault weapons ban in the wake of the racist mass shooting in a Buffalo grocery store. His party immediately turned on him with a vengeance, and the congressman announced his retirement soon after.
A 12-week sprint started soon after, culminating in an unexpectedly interesting primary contest, which as NBC News reported, was resolved in dramatic fashion.
Nick Langworthy, the chairman of the New York GOP, bested Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino in a western New York primary brawl that doubled as a proxy battle between some of the state’s most influential Republicans, NBC News projects…. Langworthy is now almost assured of winning the general election, as the Cook Political Report rates the district as a safe Republican seat.
With just about all the votes tallied, it appears Langworthy won by roughly 4 percentage points.
But in this case, many national election watchers were keeping a closer eye on his rival.
NBC News’ Benjy Sarlin joked yesterday, “It’s basically impossible to describe Carl Paladino in accurate terms without sounding like you’re insane.” That’s both funny and true: Highlighting the New York Republican’s actual record inevitably sounds like over-the-top fiction that couldn’t possibly be real — but it is.
Paladino, for example, emailed bestiality porn and racist memes to professional colleagues, ahead of a successful Republican gubernatorial primary campaign in 2010. In the years that followed, he cultivated an ugly record of racism, homophobia and utterly bonkers conspiracy theories.
Recently, the public also learned of an interview Paladino did last year in which he said that Adolf Hitler was “the kind of leader we need today,” and shared a Facebook message claiming recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde were false flag operations. (He later clarified that he’s not a Hitler admirer and doesn’t know how that online content was shared.)
Earlier this month, Paladino also said that Attorney General Merrick Garland “probably should be executed” following the Mar-a-Lago search, though he later said he was being “facetious.”
House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik endorsed Paladino anyway — which says more about her than him.
For those looking for evidence of sanity in our politics, the good news is that Paladino’s radicalism proved to be a bit too much for Republican voters in his district, and he lost yesterday’s primary. On the other hand, the bad news is he received more than 47 percent of the vote.
As for what’s next, Paladino has not yet conceded, and a campaign spokesperson claimed without proof that there were “statistical irregularities” in the election results.
In too much of the GOP, this is becoming a standard response to election defeats.