Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Hamburg, may be one of the Republican Party’s top targets nationwide, but that fact isn’t stopping one prominent local Republican from appearing at her side again and again.
Twice in the last two weeks, in the heat of campaign season, State Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, R-Elma, has appeared at events with Hochul, who’s facing a tough GOP challenge from former Erie County Executive Chris Collins in the redrawn and heavily Republican 27th Congressional District.
Hochul and Gallivan also appeared together at a third event back in May.
By Gallivan’s account, and Hochul’s, the joint appearances represent government at its best: two legislators from opposite parties coming together to work for their constituents.
“In this case, Kathy Hochul is very active in her district, and I am very active in my district,” which includes four counties that are also in the territory Hochul represents, Gallivan said. “It’s natural that we have things that overlap.”
Hochul agreed, saying: “The sad commentary is that this should not be so unusual. This should be the norm.”
But some top local Republicans, and some in Washington, are not pleased.
“This is highly unusual and very surprising,” former Erie County Republican Chairman Robert E. Davis said of Gallivan’s propensity for appearing in public with Hochul.
And while Gallivan denied it, others attributed the partnership to long-standing tensions between Gallivan and Collins that supposedly stem from the 2010 State Senate primary in which Gallivan defeated former Erie County Republican Chairman James P. Domagalski.
“It’s disappointing that Pat Gallivan is letting personal animosity get in the way of a great opportunity to not only pick up a seat, but to return a Republican district into its rightful Republican hands,” said a national Republican political operative who, like most sources interviewed for this article, asked to not be identified by name.
The joint appearances date back to May, when Hochul and Gallivan teamed up at an agricultural forum in York, Livingston County.
More recently, they appeared at an economic-development forum in Canandaigua on Oct. 15 and at an event at Jiffy-tite’s Lancaster facility Monday, where they announced their support for the company’s application for state aid for its expansion.
To hear Gallivan tell it, there’s nothing unusual about all that.
“I appear at various government-type events with many people from both parties at all levels,” he said. “I’m here to serve the citizens and to put government first.”
Meanwhile, Hochul echoed Gallivan’s observation that people at the Canandaigua event said they were thrilled to see politicians from opposite parties actually working together.
“It’s what I said I was going to do: work with the other side,” Hochul said.
Yet it was that Canandaigua event that particularly peeved Republican leaders. After all, while Canandaigua is in the newly drawn 27th District, it’s not in the district Hochul currently represents. What’s more, Hochul promoted the event with Gallivan in emails from her campaign, rather than her congressional office.
“He shouldn’t be doing it,” one local Republican leader said of Gallivan’s appearance at the Canandaigua event. “That’s a campaign stop.”
Another GOP operative termed Gallivan’s appearances with Hochul “disappointing” and said they could affect his political future.
“I think the county chairs will have long memories,” that Republican leader said.
Asked if he had a good relationship with Hochul, Gallivan said: “I do. I have a good relationship with most government officials.”
Gallivan then launched into a list of elected officials with whom he’s had good relationships. He mentioned Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and former Reps. Chris Lee and Jack F. Quinn Jr., both Republicans – but not Collins.
Asked to describe his relationship with Collins, Gallivan said: “I would say it’s cordial. We really haven’t had much of an occasion to work together.”
Gallivan served as Erie County sheriff before Collins’ 2007 election as county executive and was elected to the State Senate in 2010, serving in that position for only a year before Collins lost his re-election bid.
Asked if he would be endorsing either Collins or Hochul, Gallivan said he never makes endorsements because he wants to keep his focus on government rather than politics.
And when asked whom he would vote for in the 27th District race, Gallivan said: “I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to answer that.”
Ironically, Gallivan considered a race against Hochul this year but opted against it for family reasons.
Asked about a possible future race for Congress, Gallivan said, “I guess you can never say never,” but quickly added that such a race “is not something I’m contemplating.”
The Collins campaign declined to comment on Gallivan’s appearances with Hochul, but Hochul was more than happy to discuss them.
“We’ve had a very strong relationship since he was sheriff and I was in the County Clerk’s Office,” she said, adding:
“We are breaking the old rules. I said I was going to govern across party lines.”