The upstate Republican congressional primary pitting controversial populist and former gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino against state GOP chairman Nick Langworthy has turned into an all out civil war.
Paladino sent a letter to all GOP county leaders and hundreds of GOP activists Friday urging them to demand Langworthy step down as state chairman after accusing his House rival of improperly using party resources to aid the primary campaign against him.
“Senior NYGOP staff signed as the agent for Nick’s petitions for the ballot. Recently, we have obtained video and photo evidence that Nick is using state and county party paid staff and his chosen and appointed Erie County Republican Chairman and other resources for his personal campaign for Congress,” Paladino charged in the letter.
“It is deeply concerning and unethical that he is using top political staffers, funded by State and County party donors, for his own political campaign,” Paladino added.
Paladino said Langworthy “avoids the question of severe conflict of interest and abuse of his office.”
He also complained Langworthy is benefiting from $1.2 million of “dark money” from a D.C.-based Super PAC “with connections to RINOs Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney, both Never Trumpers.”
Paladino, 75, a mega-millionaire businessman and developer, says he’s self-funding his campaign and therefore is beholden to no one.
But the Langworthy camp responded in kind.
“Another day, another lie from the Paladino campaign. The only person who is misappropriating resources is Carl Paladino,” said Langworthy campaign spokesman Chris Grant.
“We are an independent campaign using our own resources.”
Grant claimed Paladino is using property and resources from the company he founded, Ellicott Development, to aid his campaign and has not disclosed it in campaign filings.
Further, Grant said Paladino has people convicted of crimes aiding his campaign.
The Post reported last month that a convicted sex offender on Paladino’s company staff payroll was also listed an “assistant treasurer” in his campaign filings.
Joel Sartori was controller of Ellicott Development when he was busted in 2013 and convicted of accessing and promoting child porn on a company computer and sentenced to 10 year’s probation.
A Paladino campaign rep insisted Sartori’s name was erroneously listed in the campaign papers filed with the Federal Elections Commission and he does not work on the campaign.
Paladino campaign spokesman Vish Burra also said the campaign has its headquarters based in an Ellicott Development building in downtown Buffalo. The campaign is appropriately paying the Palidino-founded Ellicott market-rent for the office space, as former President Donald Trump did when he rented space for his campaign in Trump Tower from his company, the Trump Organization.
The rough-and-tumble contest has made downstate primary races look tame in comparison.
Langworthy has branded Paladino “Cowardly Carl” for refusing to debate while Paladino calls his opponent “Lying Langworthy.”
A recent poll declared the race a dead heat, though Paladino’s own internal surveys claim he’s ahead by double digits.
Paladino, the 2010 GOP candidate for governor, and Langworthy, 41, are running in the newly drawn 23th Congressional district that runs through seven counties from Buffalo/Western NY region through the Southern Tier. The seat is open after Republican Rep. Chris Jacobs said he would not seek re-election.
The race has divided the GOP.
Many Republican county leaders and officials back Langworthy.
But Rep. Elise Stefanik, who represents the north country and is the powerful House Republican Conference chairman, the third highest post in the GOP leadership and a contender to become the next GOP House speaker, is supporting Paladino.
Paladino allies insist he has the race in the bag with a committed following. But other Republican analysts say Langworthy can win with organizational support in what is expected to be a low turnout primary for an election held on August 23, with nine days of early voting beginning Saturday.
Paladino has been a magnet for controversy over the years thanks to his loose lips.
He came under fire recently for making pro-Adolf Hitler comments, which he later disavowed.
Perhaps his lowest moment came in 2016 after saying he wanted to see then-President Barack Obama die of mad cow disease and first lady Michelle Obama “return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.”
The outcry triggered a movement to remove Paladino, a longtime ally of former President Donald Trump, from the Buffalo Board of Education.