The N.Y.-23 GOP Primary: a Preview of Trump Vs. DeSantis

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What would happen in a 2024 GOP primary if both Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis run? I dare say if you want an idea of what that might look like, you should look at the GOP primary in New York’s newly created 23rd congressional district, which will feature two prominent Republicans in the state: businessman and former gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, and N.Y. GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy.

Carl Paladino is a well-known businessman in Western New York. In 2010, he ran for governor of New York and pulled off an astonishing upset against Republican Rick Lazio in the GOP primary. However, he was later defeated in the general election by Andrew Cuomo — and we all know how well that worked out for New York.

Both are looking to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Rep. Chris Jacobs, whose career in Republican politics ended with his support of the Democrats’ gun control proposals, prompting his retirement. Langworthy had encouraged Jacobs to retire and had floated the possibility of running to replace him. Still, Paladino beat him to the punch and quickly scored the endorsement of Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), the number three Republican in the House.

New York’s 23rd congressional district is solidly red, and the winner of the primary is likely to win in November. While there are other declared GOP candidates, Paladino and Langworthy quickly emerged as the top-tier candidates. Their race will likely parallel a 2024 primary battle between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis — should one occur. And the Republican Party should keep a close watch on this race as it could predict what a divisive primary could do in 2024.

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Paladino, 75, has been well-known in the district for decades as the founder and CEO of Ellicott Development Company, just as Trump had a decades-old reputation as a successful businessman. Langworthy, 41, was the Chair of the Erie County Republican Party before becoming the youngest chair of the New York Republican Party — just as Ron DeSantis is the youngest governor in the nation currently serving.

Paladino heads into this election with many voters who likely already voted for him when he ran for governor. He’s got money and name recognition — like Trump. But Paladino has also been a divisive figure and has not been immune to controversy. His political activism in Buffalo, N.Y., made him the target of local leftists. In 2016, he was forced off the Buffalo School Board over jokes he made about the Obamas that some described as racist. Paladino has also come under fire for other comments he’s made, including praising Adolf Hitler’s ability to inspire crowds and comparing the Buffalo and Texas mass shootings to “false flag operations.” Paladino has a history of letting his own words be his worst enemy, like Trump.

This is Langworthy’s first run for office, but he’s by no means an unknown quantity and brings youth and political savviness to the table, just as Ron DeSantis does. As a Republican chair at the county and state level, he knows how to run a race, win elections, and conduct himself. “I’m someone that’s vetted. I know the process. I’ve been someone who supports President Trump,” Langworthy said when he announced his candidacy.

Both Paladino and Langworthy are pro-Trump Republicans, and both are vying for Trump’s endorsement — if Trump even makes one. If he does, it could determine the winner of the race. “This district is so Republican and so Trump, and having his endorsement is critical,” Paladino said earlier this month.

Whether or not Trump makes an endorsement, we’ll have to see whether the GOP voters of N.Y.-23 maintain their loyalty to the controversial Paladino or go with the disciplined Langworthy.

The primary race has just begun, and while it may not impact the balance of power in Congress, the GOP voters in N.Y.-23 will have an election that will undoubtedly feel like a microcosm of the 2024 primary between Trump and DeSantis and, therefore, it’s a must-watch.

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