Any skeptic doubting just how important the congressional race between Chris Collins and Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul looms in national politics ought to check out the fundraising schedule for both campaigns over the next few days.
Some of the biggest names on the national stage are involved.
Incumbent Democrat Hochul, for example, heads to Manhattan today for an event benefiting her and select other New York congressional candidates. It will be headlined by none other than House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and former Vice President Al Gore.
Collins, the Republican challenger, is slated on Saturday to import House Speaker John A. Boehner to a fundraising breakfast for him and other New York candidates at Samuel’s Grande Manor in Clarence. It will be followed by a get-out-the-vote rally at a Depew campaign headquarters partially funded by the speaker’s political operation.
As the campaign heads into its final month, both sides are rolling out their big guns to replenish the millions of dollars already spent in a race intensely coveted by national Democrats and Republicans alike.
Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy said the fact that Boehner previously identified the Collins effort as a top Republican priority is now underscored by his Saturday visit here.
“To have the Speaker of the House come here in October when there is a lot of politics going on around the country shows just how important this seat is,” he said.
On the Hochul side, sources with knowledge of the situation say the congresswoman will report raising about $730,000 this quarter – a staggering amount for an upstate congressional campaign.
While polls show Pelosi as unpopular in the overwhelmingly Republican 27th Congressional District, Langworthy observed he does not believe Hochul desires any local campaign efforts by the former speaker.
“Al Gore and Nancy Pelosi certainly do not represent Western New York values,” he said.
Hochul spokesman Francis Thomas noted that today’s New York City event benefits several Democratic candidates from around the state.
“I think Kathy has been very successful raising money on her own,” he said. “It would be one thing if Nancy Pelosi were holding an event for Kathy Hochul, but it’s for candidates all over the state.”
Boehner, meanwhile, has made no effort to hide the national GOP’s effort for Collins. He singled out the campaign and a few others in New York as top national priorities when he addressed the state delegation to the Republican National Convention as it met in Clearwater Beach, Fla., in late August.
He announced then his political operation would establish “victory centers” in key congressional races around the country to identify Republican voters and get them to the polls on Nov. 6.
He outlined a plan in which his National Republican Congressional Committee will assist in identifying and turning out voters in “orphan districts.”
“I’ve got 53 orphan districts around America,” he said then. “And, as a result … if we don’t have a real ground game in each of those districts, we’re going to get blown away.
“There about 10 victory centers operating in those congressional districts in New York,” he added. “We identify voters, we register voters and, most important, get them out to the polls.”
Boehner mentioned districts in Buffalo, Rochester, the North Country and eastern Long Island as his priorities.
Now, Langworthy said plans are translated into operations. The Collins campaign, the New York Republican State Committee and Boehner’s troops are jointly funding the “victory center” serving as the Collins campaign headquarters at 6363 Transit Road, Depew. That’s where Boehner and state GOP Chairman Edward F. Cox will stage a major get-out-the-vote rally for Collins at 9:45 a.m. on Saturday.
Boehner is no stranger to the area, often dropping by to assist Republican congressional candidates. He was last in Western New York in May 2011, when he starred at a fundraising luncheon for Republican congressional candidate Jane L. Corwin at Salvatore’s Italian Gardens in Depew that drew about 300 supporters and raised approximately $150,000.
His latest appearance comes after a new anti-Hochul ad sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that attacks her support of “Obamacare.” The spot is slated to run in Rochester and Buffalo. Local sources estimate the buy at about $200,000.
The Chamber sponsored an earlier series of anti-Hochul ads in May.