Jacobs Predicts Conservative Democrats Will Keep Senate Seat in Republican Hands
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State Sen. Chris Jacobs, R-Erie
State Sen. Chris Jacobs, R-Erie
Photo: Dan Clark

State Sen. Chris Jacobs, the newly minted Republican nominee for the 27th Congressional District, said this week he expects his party to hold onto his seat in the State Senate later this year, despite a huge enrollment advantage for Democrats over Republicans in the district.

Jacobs was selected by the various party chairs in Western New York to be the party’s nominee in replacing Rep. Chris Collins, who resigned from the post last year.

Collins, a four-term incumbent, stepped down before pleading guilty to federal charges related to insider trading. He was the first Republican in Congress to publicly support President Donald Trump’s bid for the White House.

The 27th Congressional District, in Western New York, is considered among the most conservative in the state. It’s been held by a Republican since it was created in the last redistricting frenzy.

The same can’t be said for the seat now held by Jacobs. He replaced former State Sen. Marc Panepinto, a Democrat, who was preceded by a Republican. The seat is considered a toss-up in this year’s elections.

That’s partly because of the enrollment advantage that Democrats have there. According to the latest tally from the Board of Elections in November, there were 93,589 registered Democrats there at the time. That’s versus 53,418 Republicans.

Jacobs said Republicans can hold onto the district if they convince Democrats to cross party lines and garner attention from independents.

“It still has a good amount of conservative Democrats and right-leaning independents,” Jacobs said. “That’s the formula I used to win significantly in 2016 in a presidential year.”

His seat is important given the ever-shifting majority control of the State Senate, which is currently in the hands of Democrats. They picked up more than enough seats in the 2018 elections to win their first majority in the chamber in nearly a decade.

State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Westchester, has previously said that she plans to pick up more seats this year. More than a third of Republicans in the Senate are either retiring from office or pursuing other opportunities this year, leaving some seats in play.

"I do believe that we will be able to pick up many more seats. I’m looking for at least 43. That is the floor, not the ceiling,” she said in December. “I think we are ever closer to that and more.”

But Jacobs predicted that Democrats may have done themselves in by approving a controversial new law on cash bail last year, which has been left open to criticism from conservatives and members of law enforcement.

The law essentially did away with the option of cash bail for low-level and nonviolent charges, which means individuals accused of those crimes will be able to avoid going to jail before their trial. Some have suggested that the legislation has endangered public safety.

“I believe issues the Democrats are doing right now like this bail reform are bad and I hope they get reformed soon,” Jacobs said.

“But politically, they’re going to do real damage to the Democrats. I think you're going to get a lot of moderate and conservative Democrats coming back to the Republicans and independents coming back. So I think it bodes well for a Republcian to run that seat and hold it.”

Jacobs will compete with Democrat Nate McMurray for the 27th Congressional District in a special election to be held in April, the same day as the presidential primary. It’s McMurray’s second shot at the seat, which will also be up for grabs in November.