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McMurray sets sights on primary

Sat, Mar 2nd 2024 06:55 am

By Karen Carr Keefe

Senior Contributing Writer

Former Grand Island supervisor Nate McMurray has decided to forego the April 30 special election for the 26th District Congressional seat in favor of an all-out effort for the June 25 primary.

Democrat New York State Sen. Tim Kennedy and Republican Gary Dickson, West Seneca supervisor, will face each other in the special election to fill out the term vacated by longtime congressman Brian Higgins. Both men were endorsed by the respective county committees.

The general election on Nov. 5 will determine the winner for the two-year congressional term.

McMurray cited the complexities of the process of gathering signatures for the special election ballot as the main reason he’s looking down the road to June, instead.

“We're setting our sights on the June primary, and here's the straightforward reason why: First off, the constantly shifting district lines, the tangled web of ongoing court battles, and the muddied waters of signature requirements for independents eyeing a special election ballot slot make understanding the requirements for a special election – and actually participating in the special election – nearly impossible,” he said in a statement exclusive to the Dispatch.

McMurray has recently traded jibes with Erie County Democratic Committee Chair Jeremy Zellner – Zellner in a written statement that was quoted in published reports Wednesday, and McMurray on his social media platform, https://www.facebook.com/nate.d.mcmurray.

Zellner also serves as Democratic commissioner for the county Board of Elections. McMurray sees the dual positions as a conflict of interest. He accused Zellner of failing to help him “navigate this changing maze” to get on the ballot for the special election. He suggested that, as party chair, Zellner is reluctant to help him challenge Kennedy, whom Democrats endorsed Jan. 11 for the Congressional seat.

McMurray said, “Even if we managed to dance through their hoops to get on the ballot, we'd need to hustle harder than ever for signatures in just two weeks again for the primary. So, we're zeroing in on the primary because, frankly, it's a more straightforward battlefield than the special election's wild card chaos.”

McMurray also expressed concern over the prospect of two Democrats – himself and Kennedy – fighting it out in the special election and ending up splitting the vote and leaving Republican Dickson as the one to fill out Higgins’ vacated term through the end of the year.

“The grim reality is, diving into a split-vote scenario in a special election might just hand the victory to the recently appointed Republican, slicing the Democratic vote,” McMurray said.

“Despite the allure of a wild card run, where once underdogs like Kathy Hochul have sprinted to victory, the considerable risk of inadvertently sending a Republican MAGA candidate to Washington from the blue seat in New York state doesn't sit right with me. Taking the high road might be tougher, but we're committed to duking it out in the primary ring.”

Dickson was praised by Erie County Republican Committee Chair Michael Kracker in a statement posted on https://www.cityandstateny.com/.

“Gary is one of the most highly-regarded local officials in Western New York – certainly a very well-respected member among the Republican organization – who has a proven record of winning in Democratic areas,” Kracker said.

In campaign literature, Kennedy said, “I’m running for Congress to bring positive change to Washington – to fight MAGA extremists, protect our democracy, Social Security and Medicare, and to continue safeguarding women’s rights.”

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