NY-27 resident Michael Caputo, a political strategist with ties to Donald Trump, took to Twitter today to ask why didn't we, in our story about Nate McMurray being put on unpaid leave by his employer, Delaware North, mention that McMurray has said "insulting things" about his company and its owners.
In a statement in the tweet directed at another reporter from Upstate New York, Caputo said, "how long would you last if you tweeted insults about the owners of (the name of the reporter's newspaper)."
"Do more reporting," Caputo said.
Caputo raised a valid point -- at least insofar as we should have taken a closer look at those tweets, so we did.
In the past 30 days, McMurray has mentioned, either directly or indirectly, Delaware North or the Jacobs family 18 times.
Sixteen of those tweets were posted since Feb. 8, which would have been after McMurray said he was placed on unpaid leave.
McMurray is running for the NY-27 seat vacated in September by Rep. Chris Collins, who pled guilty to federal insider trading charges. The family of McMurray's opponent, Chris Jacobs, owns Delaware North, where McMurray, licensed to practice law in New York, is a VP of business development.
Attempts to reach Jacobs or a member of the campaign for comment have been unsuccessful.
In an interview with Caputo this afternoon, Caputo said McMurray's tweets are problematic, and whether they came before or after McMurray was placed on unpaid leave, they should give voters pause about McMurray's judgment.
"This is the only public visibility that Western New Yorkers have to the kind of employee he was," Caputo said. "If he's willing to say those things for all the world to see, you can imagine what kind of teammate he was at Delaware North."
Caputo is not associated with the Jacobs campaign and is not currently working with any other potential candidate in the NY-27, though he did spearhead a "Draft David Bellavia" effort last year.
The Aurora resident said, "I know 100 attorneys who are more qualified than him who would kill for the job he has. From my perspective, if he ever darkens the door of Delaware North again, it would be a shame."
We spoke with McMurray briefly today and he dismissed the accusation that he was put on unpaid leave for his tweets but said he couldn't discuss the issue in detail.
"This wasn't something that happened suddenly," McMurray said. "This happened after mounting pressure."
He wouldn't elaborate on what he meant by "pressure."
As for the content of his tweets, especially those sent since Feb. 8, McMurray said, "My duty is to talk about issues relevant to the people of the 27th District."
From a review of McMurray's tweets over the past 30 days, the first reference we can find to his employers is from Feb. 1.
His next tweet was Feb. 3.
Starting Feb. 8, McMurray sent out 16 tweets that made reference to his job or his employers, including at least one that seemed to hint at his employment situation:
One of McMurray's favorite targets during this tweetstorm is the Jacobs' family ownership of two casinos in Western New York.
In his tweets, McMurray hinted at corrupt motives of the Jacobs' family in promoting Chris Jacobs for Congress:
In one tweet, McMurray accused Jacobs of voting on a bill in the State Senate that affects the family casino businesses. We are unable to substantiate the claim.
One of Caputo's issues with McMurray's tweets is that he is using the Jacobs' family wealth as a wedge issue as part of his seemingly progressive, anti-inequality campaign theme.
"He uses income disparity with a Berniesque (referring to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders) spin," Caputo said. "That rhetoric doesn't play well in the NY-27. The vast majority of Republicans in the NY-27 find that kind of rhetoric offensive."
Reminded that this is a populist district that almost went for Jack Davis in the last special election (a special election in 2011 won by Kathy Hochul), Caputo said that may be so, but McMurray's approach to wealth inequality is not the approach that will resonate in the district.
"Looking at the income disparity message, using his employer as an example, he looks like a guy who stabs his employer in the back by using the wealth of a family that has fed him for years as a hammer in the income disparity debate," Caputo said. "The NY-27 is going to find him offensive."
Caputo is aware that self-funded Republicans handpicked by GOP leadership hasn't worked out too well for the NY-27 in recent years. There was Chris Lee who was caught posting shirtless photos of himself on Craigslist and Chris Collins who is going to prison on insider trading charges.
The other difficulty Chris Jacobs faces in the special election is he does not seem to be the choice of Trump-supporting Republicans. Jacobs is also not Caputo's first choice but Jacobs has his support now.
"I am Republican and I support the Republican nominee," Caputo said.
Whether Jacobs wins or loses the special election on April 28, both Stefan Mychajliw and Beth Parlato are vying for the title of most Trump-loyal future member of Congress, to the point of attacking Jacobs as a "NeverTrumper," which Caputo acknowledges could dampen GOP turnout in an election timed to coincide with the Democratic presidential primary. If the Democratic turnout is more than 50 percent -- Caputo considers that unlikely -- McMurray could be sent to Washington for at least seven months.
"The real question is how much do you want Nate McMurray as your congressman," Caputo said. "The question Republicans have to answer is, do you want Nate McMurray as your congressman for even five minutes?"
Caputo calls McMurray a socialist. A charge McMurray has repeatedly denied (in our video interview on Thursday, we pressed McMurray on the socialism issue; we'll release the video after Jacobs has participated in a proportional, in-depth interview).
If McMurray does pull out a victory on April 28, Caputo said he's confident he won't stand a chance to in the general election in November.
"It's metaphysically impossible for a Democrat to win in the district when Donald Trump is on the ballot," Caputo said.
UPDATE 9 p.m.: It's been brought to our attention that we have perhaps not explained enough about what Delaware North is. Here's the Wikipedia entry: "Delaware North is a global foodservice and hospitality company headquartered in Buffalo, New York. The company also operates in the lodging, sporting, airport, gaming and entertainment industries. The company employs over 55,000 people worldwide and has over $3.2 billion in annual revenues." Key people: Chairman Jeremy Jacobs, and Jerry Jacobs and Louis M. Jacobs are co-CEOs, and Charlie Jacobs is CEO of Boston Holdings. Delaware North operates nine gaming facilities nationally, including Hamburg and Finger Lakes.
Shortly after this story was published, Nate McMurray (we had asked him to substantiate his tweet quoted above) provided links to three senate bills that are related to the casino business in New York that Jacobs cast votes on. They are:
- Senate Bill S6669: Authorizes regional off-track betting corporations to allocate up to $500,000 from their capital acquisition funds for employee salaries and benefits;
- Senate Bill S6675: Provides that consent to simulcast at off-track betting branches, horse races run at a regional track, shall not be unreasonably withheld;
- Assembly Bill A5059A: Authorizes the sale of cider, mead, braggot and wine at games of chance.