ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – Chris Jacobs has declared victory in both the Special Election to immediately fill New York’s 27th Congressional District and the Republican Primary to be on the GOP line in November. However the two elections have two very different stories, with Jacobs Republican primary opponents conceding defeat, and his Democratic special election opponent refusing to do so.
The Associated Press called both races in Jacobs’ favor early Wednesday morning.
The special election was required to fill the seat vacated by former Rep. Chris Collins on October 1st when he resigned. That happened the same day he pleaded guilty to charges related to insider trading. Collins is scheduled to begin a 26-month prison sentence on August 18th.
After the early voting and Election Day votes were counted, Jacobs held a 31,427 vote lead. But because of the COVID-19 crisis, there is an unprecedented number of absentee ballots that have not yet been counted. A News 4 analysis found there were at least 64,751 absentees in the race. More will arrive at the eight county boards of elections in the district over the next few days. It could be weeks before they are all counted. Officials at the Erie County Board of Elections will not open their 36,583 absentee ballots until July 7th.
The number of outstanding absentee ballots did not keep Jacobs for celebrating Tuesday night.
“We move forward toward taking the seat and finally getting representation back to the 27th Congressional District,” Jacobs said as he declared victory.
But because of the absentee ballots, McMurray refused to concede, tweeting, “I’m waiting for every last ballot to be counted.”
McMurray did not respond to request for further comment on Wednesday. Jacobs was unavailable for comment.
Len Lenihan, the former Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman, said he doesn’t think the absentee ballots will make much of a difference in the race.
“The rule of thumb in politics and in counting votes is that the absentees very rarely change the outcome of an election, unless it is extremely close,” Lenihan said.
Jacobs holds 69 percent of the counted vote. McMurray holds 30 percent.
To McMurray’s advantage, of the special election absentee ballots filled out by Erie County voters, more than 50 percent come from Democratic or Working Family Party members. Thirty percent were filled out by Republican or Conservative Party voters. Still, Lenihan doesn’t think it will matter when all is said and done.
“Yes, I think the absentees will give Nate a few percentages more,” he said. “But when you look at the other seven counties, and you look at the blank ballots and Independence ballots coming in from that district, it’s probably going to negate anything good that is going to happen for Nate in Erie County.”
However, Lenihan believes as a result of the circumstance, the district will remain without representation for at least another month.
“Given the fact that it’s going to take a couple weeks to even open up the absentees, then about two or three weeks to count them, then it gets certified, chances are Jacobs won’t be able to take his seat until maybe early August or late July,” he said.
The term expires at the end of the year.
Meanwhile, in the GOP Primary, Stefan Mychajliw and Beth Parlato both have conceded to Jacobs. Mychajliw did so Tuesday night.
Parlato conceded Wednesday afternoon, saying, “Although not victorious, I am grateful for each and every vote, prayer, and supporter.”
That means Jacobs will have the Republican line when the seat goes back up for grabs in November’s general election. McMurray will be on the Democratic line. As of right now, Parlato holds the Conservative line, potentially risking some Republican or Conservative votes being taken away from Jacobs.
Parlato’s concession statement made no reference to the November election. Ralph Lorigo, the Erie County Conservative Party Chairman, said he will be speaking with her soon regarding the situation.
“We’re going to do the right thing,” Lorigo said.
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter who started working at WIVB in 2017. A Lancaster native, he came to Buffalo after working at stations in Rochester and Watertown. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.