Chris Jacobs is going to Albany.
The Erie county clerk handily defeated his Democratic opponent, Amber Small, flipping a seat that many saw as key to the Republicans’ hopes to hold onto its majority in the New York state Senate.
Jacobs was effusive in heaping praise upon the Erie County GOP, his staff and his family in declaring victory at the county Republicans’ results party in downtown Buffalo, ending the night with a 20-point lead, according to unofficial results from the Erie County Board of Elections.
“We’ll go forward now and do the right things for Erie County,” Jacobs said.
With state Republicans viewing this seat as a “must win,” they spent heavily, flooding the district with mailers, television and radio buys and social media advertising. Jacobs, while facing a near 2-to-1 voter enrollment deficit, has been picked by many prognosticators as the favorite given his proven track record in winning in constituencies despite an enrollment disadvantage; his name recognition as an elected official; and as a member of one of Buffalo’s wealthiest families, with the resources and connections that come with his family ties.
Small, while seeing no funding from Senate Democrats or the state party, benefitted from more than $500,000 spent on her behalf by a New York State United Teachers associated group, with plenty of mailers and television ads supporting her candidacy getting in front of voters.
Small declined to comment to a City & State reporter at her election night event, saying she wanted to spend the night with her friends and family.
Thanks to Jacobs' victory, Republicans appeared to be in position maintain control of the state Senate.
Jacobs said he felt the voters elected him to clean up Albany, something he concentrated on in his campaign with proposals to change policies for lawmakers, including instituting term limits.
“Reform was the mandate I felt from the people,” he said.
Jacobs said he also hopes to build on the momentum around economic development projects in Buffalo and other parts of upstate.
“Certainly, I want to continue what I’m seeing as the beginning of a real economic renaissance here,” Jacobs said. “I want Buffalo to continue and Erie County to continue on that path, and I think that state government needs to be a partner. I hope that I can be a real catalyst as part of that”
Jacobs has also been focused on education, both through his time on the Buffalo School Board and through his nonprofit the Bison Fund, which provides scholarships to private schools for underprivileged children.
Republicans have failed to get key education initiatives passed in recent years, including the Education Income Tax Credit.
Jacobs said he will continue to push for education reform, but pointed out that changes to the public school system will impact many more children than any shifts in the charter or private school policy.
“My first priority is funding for public education,” he said.
While some insiders expected the race to be cleaner than some of the recent contests in the contentious district, the attacks from both candidates and their backers have been consistent and plentiful.
Small, who has never held elected office, had been a champion of rights for women and the LGBTQ community on the trail, while she and her supporters have painted Jacobs as a privileged, career politician who is out of touch with regular people.
Meanwhile, the Jacobs campaign played up his commitment to education, highlighting his Bison Fund, a charity that provides scholarships to private schools for disadvantaged kids, as well as his support for charter schools.
State Republicans, through mailers and ads, tried to link Small to an investigation into New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fundraising in the 2014 push to take the Senate for Democrats.