Western New York Republicans got behind Trump early, but will they be rewarded?

Donald Trump with Nick Langworthy
President-elect Donald Trump with Nick Langworthy, the chairman of the Erie County Republican Committee. (Office of Nick Langworthy)

While prominent Western New York Republicans were celebrating key victories in local races last week, perhaps even more important to the GOP was its role in helping Donald Trump on his path to the White House.

Rep. Chris Collins was the first member of Congress to throw his support behind the once-unlikely candidate and was one of his most visible surrogates throughout the campaign. Nick Langworthy, the chairman of the Erie County Republican Committee, was an early backer and helped push Trump to a landslide victory in New York’s primary. Carl Paladino, the Trump campaign’s co-chairman in New York, has long voiced his support for the Manhattan real estate mogul, telling people at the state Republican convention they needed to “get on the bus” or get out of the way.

Now, with Trump’s seat in the Oval Office secured, those who were by his side from the beginning stand to benefit from the relationships they have built in the process.

Tom Reynolds, a former Republican congressman from the area who now works as a consultant for Nixon Peabody, said that Collins in particular could capitalize on his decision to be the first out of the gate in endorsing Trump.

“I think that certainly bodes well for him and our region,” Reynolds said.

And that is already becoming evident. Rumors had swirled that Collins is up for a Cabinet position, although the congressman told a Buffalo radio station late last week that he would not leave the House of Representatives.

Michael Caputo, a Republican consultant who briefly worked for the Trump campaign, said that in the early summer, while the talks about Cabinet appointments were in the early stages, Collins came up repeatedly.

“His leadership was being recognized,” Caputo said. “What he did took guts and Donald Trump doesn’t forget that kind of stuff.”

Langworthy, who also had some local successes on election night with Chris Jacobs’ win in the 60th state Senate District and Angelo Morinello’s victory in the Assembly’s 143rd, may be moving on to bigger things. Rumors have been circulating as early as this summer that he is next in line to head the state GOP, though he remains conciliatory when talking about current state GOP Chairman Ed Cox.

Filling the Trump Cabinet

  • Donald J. Trump
  • Donald Trump ran for president as the ultimate outsider, making enemies among Republicans as well as Democrats. But he picked up key establishment allies, some of them in his home state. While Trump developed a strong base in Western New York, other supporters are based in and around downstate New York – some of them could join (or even stay on under) a Trump administration when he takes office next year.

  • Rudy Giuliani
  • RUDY GIULIANI – The former mayor of New York City got on the Trump bandwagon at an opportune time, landing a plum spot at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where he delivered a speech that electrified the audience. The alliance has revived the career of Giuliani, a former presidential candidate himself, who established himself as one of Trump’s most dedicated and outspoken supporters. Some reports peg Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, as a favorite to be the next attorney general, while others suggest he could be homeland security secretary.

  • Chris Christie
  • CHRIS CHRISTIE – The New Jersey governor hit a new low during the Bridgegate trial, in which two former staffers were found guilty for conspiring to shut down traffic on the George Washington Bridge as an act of political retribution. Things could be looking up, however, now that Trump is heading to the White House. Christie failed to get the vice presidential nod, but could recommend himself for a role as head of Trump’s transition team. He is also a former federal prosecutor and could be considered for attorney general as well.

  • Jared Kushner
  • JARED KUSHNER – The publisher of the New York Observer married into the family in 2009 when he wed Ivanka Trump. He played an influential behind-the-scenes role during the campaign, joining Trump’s children in ousting Corey Lewandowski, helping develop policy and serving as an intermediary with certain groups. Whether or not Kushner officially joins the administration, the president is likely to continue to rely on his son-in-law for advice.

  • Donald Trump Jr.
  • DONALD TRUMP JR. – Some reports have suggested that Trump’s son could join his father in Washington, perhaps as secretary of the interior. He has expressed an interest in politics already, suggesting earlier this year that he might run for mayor of New York City – although the elder Trump shot down the idea. Trump Jr. may instead be tasked with helping his siblings run the family company while his father is in office.

Langworthy credited Cox as instrumental to Trump’s success in the New York primary, but said it’s unclear at this point what Cox plans to do next.

“I respect Ed, and we’ve worked well together,” Langworthy said. “We’ve had a good partnership, but he’s got to decide what his future entails and if there’s any way that I can serve at a higher level, I’d take a strong look at that.”

Paladino was more blunt about what he believes will be next for Langworthy.

“Nick will be the next state chair,” he said.

Paladino, who like Trump is a real estate developer, said he has no plans to pursue any kind of position with the new administration and that he was simply elated to have helped him make history.

“I don’t need a job,” he said. “I’ve got a job. I’m a happy guy.”

Still, while a Trump victory is something Western New York Republicans can hang their hats on, it’s unlikely to do much to alter Democratic advantages in Buffalo or at the state level. The Jacobs win helped to maintain the status quo in the state Senate and the GOP holds a majority in the county Legislature, but that does little to change the outlook for the party.

Trump got about 45 percent of the vote in Erie County, a place where Langworthy and others thought they might be able to win the popular vote. Democrats continue to hold a 2-to-1 lead in enrollment in the county. The governor’s office has been blue for a decade. And the state Assembly, with many members from New York City, is dominated by Democrats.

“New York is cooked, man,” Paladino said. “Forget about it. You’re going to live with Andrew Cuomo the rest of your life, or somebody like him.”

Caputo agreed that the Trump victory will have little effect on statewide politics generally, but said it will change the way things work within the state GOP. Dozens of people new to politics took trips to other states on grass-roots campaigns for the president-elect, and many more got involved locally. Now that they have the political bug they may be more likely to participate in local and statewide party efforts, which could factor into the primary for governor next election.

“What Carl Paladino started, Donald Trump formalized,” Caputo said. “And the next governor’s race is going to be deeply affected by the Trump supporters in the Republican Party in New York.”

And while the influence Western New York has earned may not gain them much at the polls in overwhelmingly Democratic New York, the assistance Trump received from GOP members across the state, coupled with the fact that it is his home, should bode well in terms of federal funding and attention.

In fact, even Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signaled that he believes state politicians can use Trump’s election to their advantage, saying he hopes to work with the next president on rebuilding the state’s infrastructure, which Trump has outlined as a national priority.

“President Trump is going to know Western New York and know Buffalo, and I think he’s going to have that relationship with most of New York state,” Langworthy said. “Trump is the kind of guy who remembers who was with him when it mattered.”