It has always seemed inevitable that Erie County’s Nick Langworthy would someday lead the New York Republican Party.
Indeed, the local GOP chairman has been preparing his whole life – president of statewide College Republicans while at Niagara, campaign aide to Henry Wojtaszek’s run against Rep. Louise Slaughter in 2002, staffer to Reps. Tom Reynolds and Chris Lee, and Erie County GOP leader at 29. Now at 38, he takes over a state organization led for 10 years by Ed Cox, respected everywhere in the party but hampered by huge numbers of New York City immigrants signing up as Democrats.
It all caught up with Cox. It will dog Langworthy too.
The new chairman worked hard for his promotion to the statewide scene. He hit every clam bake, Christmas party, annual dinner and potato sack race in big counties and small. But he demonstrated that the old rule of politics – “show up” – still works.
The young guy’s challenge to the Old Guard remained tight until just a few days ago, especially as Cox claimed the big suburban counties of Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester. But everything changed on May 16 when Langworthy’s cell phone rang and he was asked to hold for President Trump. They talked for 15 minutes in a call that signaled Trump’s desire for a change.
“He believed it was time to bring new energy to the party,” Langworthy summarized.
Nobody thinks Trump will win New York in 2020. But the new chairman wants to prevent more damage like the loss of three Republican House seats last year.
“He wants to see a vibrant Republican Party in his home state,” Langworthy said, noting his recent regular communications with White House political people who sought a “peaceful” transition.
It makes sense that Trump would side with Langworthy, who was among the first urging him to run for governor in 2014. The president probably did not forget that Cox favored then-Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino back then.
Indeed, during a 2014 interview with The Buffalo News aboard his private 757 en route to a Langworthy fundraiser in Buffalo, Trump made his feelings known.
“He’s a nice guy, but he hasn’t won anything,” Trump said of Cox. “You’ll never see him on a plane like this.”
On that short flight from New York to Buffalo, the future president was already asking during casual conversation about Langworthy and his influence in the party. More than five years later, it is obvious he remembered.
Now Langworthy must show he can succeed where Cox could not. The kid from South Dayton must somehow work the Manhattan money salons where Cox felt comfortable – and he must win elections.
Already, he is flexing muscles and paying back IOUs to his new backers. A few days ago, residents in the Schenectady suburb of Niskayuna were mystified as teams of “volunteers” from Buffalo combed its neatly manicured streets.
Somehow the Buffalo folks were carrying independent nominating petitions for the town’s Republican candidates seeking an additional line with the “Pro-Nisky Party.”
“These kids didn’t know what they were doing; they couldn’t even pronounce Niskayuna,” Denise Murphy McGraw, a Democratic member of the Town Board, told the Politics Column. “People were upset. They don’t want to be told by people from Buffalo what to do, especially for some fake political party.”
Coincidentally, it seems Schenectady County Republican Chairman Chris Koetzle had bestowed his endorsement on Langworthy only a few days before.
“It was a request from the Niskayuna supervisor, so we dispatched some hungry young people to help,” Langworthy said. “So as part of the campaign I bought them gas, pizzas and put them up in a hotel.
“Schenectady County was very good to me,” he added.
Langworthy had not even been elected chairman and his forces were already at work in Niskayuna.
Langworthy and his influence seem bound to show up in many more Niskayunas.