Photo by Jim Eckstrom
U.S. Rep. Chris Jacobs (left), R-Orchard Park, meets Howard VanRensselaer, chairman of the Cattaraugus County Legislature, Monday evening.
By JIM ECKSTROM
OLEAN — U.S. Rep. Chris Jacobs hit the new 23rd Congressional District ground running Monday evening as he appeared at a monthly gathering of Republicans and Conservatives at Good Times of Olean.
Jacobs was glad to accept the short-notice chance to meet voters so soon after newly reconfigured congressional districts in New York were approved late May 20. He mingled with the crowd and also spoke as a panelist during the Right Thinkers meeting led by former Olean Common Council member Nate Smith.
“It’s a great opportunity to get out and about in Cattaraugus County and introduce myself,” Jacobs said, noting that his current 27th Congressional District has a great deal in common with what will be the 23rd — which includes Allegany County — after 2022.
“Of course, when you look at the two districts, the first thing that you can point to is agriculture,” he told the Times Herald. “It’s probably the number one industry (in the 23rd), as it is in my district right now. As a member of the (U.S. House) Agriculture Committee, I’m really looking forward to seeing what we might be able to do for this district if we can take back the House.”
Jacobs pointed out that control of the House could be critical for the district in the next Congress because the current Farm Bill expires in 2023.
After all the drawing and redrawing of New York’s congressional districts — the latest and seemingly final lines resulting from a court order — the 23rd includes the southern and eastern portions of Erie County, including Jacobs’ home of Orchard Park, Chautauqua County to the west and extending east in the Southern Tier to Chemung County.
Jacobs agreed that the new 23rd “makes better sense” for him because his home was drawn into the district and he doesn’t have to make the hard choice of running for a seat in a district in which he doesn’t currently live.
He said he is certainly familiar with the western end of the Southern Tier because of his visits to Ellicottville and Chautauqua County. The key for him as he runs for the seat against Democrat Max Della Pia in the fall will be to “get out and meet the people … and listen to what their needs are.”
Speaking in front of the Right Thinkers crowd, Jacobs said he’s optimistic that the Republicans will retake the majority in both the House and the U.S. Senate, an outcome he hopes is the first step in undoing damage he believes President Joe Biden and the Democrats are doing to the country.
“It takes one word to describe” the Biden administration and the Democrats: “Crisis,” the congressman said. “Whether it be a crisis on energy, inflation, global security or at the southern border … and the next one is going to be a food crisis.”
Jacobs said the United States must produce more of its own food as well manufacture more of its own goods as a matter of national security. Meanwhile, he believes high gasoline prices and the loss of energy security have been driven at least in part by “environmental ideologues” who seized control of Biden’s agenda.
Also speaking before the crowd of more than 100 at the Right Thinkers event was Joe Sempolinski, the Steuben County chairman of the Republican Party who will run in a special election — most likely to be set for August — to serve out the final four months of the current term in the current 23rd. Former congressman Tom Reed resigned earlier this month to take a job as a Washington, D.C. lobbyist.
Sempolinski, who made it clear he will not get into a primary against Jacobs to run in the fall, expressed his belief that residents of the current 23rd who voted Reed into multiple terms deserve to have a Republican serving their interests in the final months and even weeks of the current Congress.
“Three-quarters of a million people deserve to have a vote in Congress,” Sempolinski said, adding that as a former top aide to Reed he believes it’s important to maintain constituent services in the region.
Sempolinski at one time intended to indeed run in the 2022 race for a full term after Reed said in early 2021 that he wouldn’t seek reelection. But Sempolinski stepped back after Rep. Claudia Tenney of the Utica area, drawn out of her Upstate district, announced her run for the 23rd as it was initially drawn in the redistricting process. However, after the court-ordered reworking of the state Democrats’ gerrymandered districts, Tenney decided to run for a new district in her home region.
Sempolinski called Jacobs “a good man” and said he will give him his full support in the regular 2022 election. Former state Sen. Catharine Young of Olean, who was on hand at Good Times Monday evening, and state Sen. George Borrello of Chautauqua County had also contemplated running for the seat, but in the end stepped aside as Jacobs gears up his campaign.