Following deadly mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, Rep. Chris Jacobs of New York, a soft-spoken congressman serving his first full term in the House, stunned fellow Republicans by passing a Federal ban on assault weapons and limits on high-capacity magazines.
Speaking from his suburban Buffalo neighborhood a week ago, about 10 miles from the grocery store where 10 black residents were massacred, Mr Jacobs called his risky break with fundamental Republican orthodoxy bigger than politics: “I can’t in good conscience sit down and say I didn’t try to do something,” he said.
It only took seven days for the political forces to catch up with him.
On Friday, facing a backlash from party leaders, a potential state party president primary and an energetic disguise of Donald Trump Jr.Mr. Jacobs has announced that he will abandon his re-election campaign.
The episode, which unfolded as President Biden pleaded with lawmakers in Washington to pass a series of new laws to tackle gun violence, may be a harbinger for gun control advocates, who had hailed Mr. Jacobs’ move on the issue as a sign that the country’s latest mass tragedies could break a decades-old deadlock in Washington.
It also serves as an accurate summary of how little deviation from gun policy Republican Party officials and activists are willing to tolerate from their legislators, despite broad American support for gun safety measures. fire.
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Just last week, Mr. Jacobs, who is the scion of one of Buffalo’s wealthiest families and was endorsed by the National Rifle Association in 2020, had been an easy favorite for re-election even after a Court-appointed cartographer redrawn his Western New York District will include some of the reddest rural counties in the state, areas he does not currently represent.
But on Friday, after local gun rights groups posted his office phone number on the internet and local party leaders began enlisting their support one by one, political analysts predicted that he may well lose a main challenge based solely on his adherence to gun restrictions.
Party leaders and allies who have spoken to him in recent days said Mr Jacobs clearly understood the political ramifications of his decision to back strong gun control measures – but he refused to walk away from it nonetheless. .
Mr. Jacobs last week announced his support for a federal ban on assault weapons without first consulting with many of his political advisers, according to a person familiar with his decision who was not authorized to discuss it.
After making his remarks, he conducted a poll that suggested he may still have a path to re-election, but not an easy one.
“Look, his heart is fine, but he’s wrong in his thinking when it comes to us,” said Ralph C. Lorigo, longtime chairman of the Erie County Conservative Party. “That quick jump that all of a sudden it’s the gun that kills people rather than the person is definitely not 100% true.”
Mr Lorigo said he vouched for Mr Jacobs earlier this year when other Tories doubted him. But last Monday, he asked the congressman to come to his office and made it clear that he would encourage a primary challenge.
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“He understood that it was potentially political suicide,” Mr Lorigo said.
Even before he made his decision on Friday, several Republicans were already lining up to run against Mr. Jacobs, furious both at his remarks and at the way he had surprised other members of his party, some of whom who had already supported him.
“We deserved the courtesy of a warning,” said State Senator George Borrello, a second-term Republican from Irving, NY, south of Buffalo, who said he did not believe the remarks by Mr. Jacobs were “an improvised”. emotional response”, but were planned in advance.
Mr. Borrello, who said on Friday that he is now considering running for office, added that Mr. Jacobs’ actions were particularly infuriating given that the congressman had “actively and aggressively” sought support from pro- arms like the NRA and the Society of 1791.
“And these people rightly feel betrayed,” he said.
Other potential Republican challengers included Mike Sigler, a Tompkins County lawmaker, and Marc Cenedella, a conservative businessman.
The most formidable threat, however, came from Nicholas A. Langworthy, a longtime Republican leader from Erie County who currently serves as the state’s Republican Party chairman.
Mr. Langworthy had been a supporter of Mr. Jacobs, helping him win the endorsement of Donald J. Trump, but he has started circulating petitions to be on the ballot himself in recent days and has told his associates that he would consider challenging Mr. Jacobs.
Mr Langworthy has yet to officially announce whether he will seek the seat, but his entry into the race would likely clear the emerging primary field.