What's next in NY-23 after Republicans Joe Sempolinski, Nick Langworthy emerge victorious

Joe Sempolinski will represent NY's 23rd district for four months, and the GOP hope it will be a clean handoff to Nick Langworthy.

Chris Potter
Elmira Star-Gazette

Joe Sempolinski is going to Washington.

Sempolinski, a longtime aide to Rep. Tom Reed who oversaw Reed’s staff in New York’s 23rd District, won a special election Tuesday to serve out the remainder of Reed’s final term in Congress.

Sempolinski defeated Democrat Max Della Pia, winning all but Tompkins County across the sprawling 23rd District. The Republican hopes he will be keeping the seat warm for Nick Langworthy, the state GOP chairman who edged Carl Paladino to win Tuesday’s Republican primary in the redrawn 23rd District.

Sempolinski is not pursuing a full term in the new district, which covers Allegany, Steuben, Schuyler, Chemung, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties, plus a large chunk of Erie County outside the City of Buffalo.

“I’m happy to support (Langworthy) in the general election,” said Sempolinski. “I anticipate come January I’m going to be handing keys to the office off to my friend Nick. I’ve known Nick for a long time.”

Sempolinski’s first priority is restoring the district office and tackling constituent services “as quickly as possible.” Throughout the campaign, the Steuben County Republican Committee Chairman said his experience as Reed’s district manager would allow him to hit the ground running if elected to the seat.

“A lot of people rely on the Congressional office for help with the federal government. They call that office when they don’t know who else to call,” said Sempolinski, who resides in the Steuben County village of Canisteo.

Joe Sempolinski

Sempolinski had already declared his candidacy for the office when Reed resigned in May to take a position with a lobbying firm. Reed, a Corning Republican first elected to Congress in 2010, previously announced he would not seek a new term following allegations of sexual harassment.

Sempolinski will serve out the final four months of Reed’s term. Congress will be in session three of the four months he is in office, and Sempolinski suspects the final two months of the year may see a flurry of legislative activity if Democrats lose control of the House in the midterms.

Sempolinski said he hopes he can help “set the table” for economic growth and development in the Southern Tier and the Finger Lakes.

“I would love to be a part of that, whether it’s broad policy or specific projects,” he said. “This is an area that’s been left behind economically over a long period of time. If we have folks who are able to find good-paying jobs, that solves a lot of our other problems.”

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'Baggage' may have cost Paladino in loss to Langworthy

Langworthy overcame an early deficit to Paladino on Tuesday night and narrowly captured the nomination in the 23rd District.

“It is time to move onto the next chapter of my life,” Paladino said Wednesday in a statement.

Paladino, a Buffalo businessman, was quickly endorsed by Rep. Elise Stefanik, the No. 3-ranking Republican in the House, when he declared his candidacy in June, but the campaign was derailed as a number of Paladino’s remarks surfaced.

He shared a conspiracy-laden Facebook post suggesting a mass shooting in Buffalo and other mass killings were part of a plot to take away people’s guns, drew criticism for praising Hitler’s leadership ability in a radio interview, and for calling for the execution of U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, a remark he attributed to “just being facetious.”

“I learned a lot of values growing up in the Southern Tier, but the one was, when you confront a bully you punch him in the face and you take him down a peg, and they won’t mess with you again. We did that here in this district tonight,” Langworthy said in his victory speech. “We sent a loud and clear message that people want decent, stable, honest, conservative Republican leadership going forward. Now it’s time we unite our party.”

Nick Langworthy talks with supporters Monday at the Elbow Room restaurant in Elmira.

Della Pia will be on the ballot again, facing Langworthy

Allegany County Republican Committee Chairman Dwight “Mike” Healy was among the first committee chairs in the 23rd District to back Langworthy’s candidacy. Healy said Paladino’s brand of politics distracted from the issues facing the district.

Healy also believes Langworthy has the “right combination of youth and experience” and is positioned to represent the conservative-leaning district for the longterm, while Paladino, 76, likely would have had a brief stay in Congress.

“Both of them are national figures, but Carl isn’t necessarily a national figure for the right reasons,” said Healy. “He brings a lot of baggage. Whether it’s fair or not, I can’t say. Nick is already known amongst the powers in Congress from his role. Even as Erie County chairman, he had that notoriety. He helped with the Trump transition team and was a Trump supporter.”

Langworthy will take on Della Pia in November. Della Pia, who did not face a primary challenge, is a retired Air Force colonel and lawyer who narrowly lost the 2018 Democratic primary in the district. He chairs the Tioga County Democratic Committee.

Della Pia said he was encouraged by Tuesday's result in the special election, noting that Donald Trump won the district by 15 points in 2016 and 11 points in 2020.

"To get within 5% or 6% shows the strength of my campaign. It’s clear voters are tired of the hyper-partisanship in Congress. They value a candidate who is looking to find common ground," said Della Pia.

"These results show the midterm election, in November, in the new NY-23 is winnable and our momentum is not going to stop. This was an energizing experience, getting out the vote for November starts today."

While Della Pia finished the special election within about five points of Sempolinski, he faces an uphill battle in the new 23rd District, which does not include the Democratic stronghold of Tompkins County. After redistricting, over 40% of the voters in NY-23 will reside in Erie County.

The Cook Political Report's Partisan Voter Index gives the district a ranking of R+12.

Chris Potter can be reached at cpotter@gannett.com or on Twitter @ChrisPotter413. To get unlimited access to the latest news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.