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Bellavia says he’s taking a stand against Corwin for the sake of the GOP

By Howard B. Owens

David Bellavia’s dislike for Jane Corwin didn’t just begin when he was passed over as a candidate in the NY-26 race. It goes back to Corwin's earliest days in politics.

And while Bellavia has taken a genuine shine to Tea Party-line candidate Jack Davis, he regrets that his support for Davis is being seen by some as just sour grapes.

Mainly, he supports Davis, he said, because he is an "honorable man" who knows what he stands for while he doesn’t know whether Corwin is a real conservative or just an opportunist.

“She only believes what people within a 5-foot radius of her believe,” Bellavia said. “If she’s in a red district, then she’s red. If she were in New Jersey, she would be a Patacki Republican. I can’t honestly tell you what she believes because all she talks about is negative things. She tells us what’s wrong with Kathy Hochul, but she expresses no beliefs, she has no plans. She’s an empty-suit candidate.”

Bellavia, a Batavia resident and a decorated Iraq War veteran, stopped by The Batavian’s office Monday morning to discuss the race and why he’s come out in favor of Davis and against Corwin.

In 2006, Bellavia backed Republican Tom Reynolds against Jack Davis, and in 2008, even though some in the GOP had encouraged him to run, he backed Chris Lee's campaign. When Shirtless Chris Lee vacated the office, Bellavia let the GOP leaders know he wanted to be the candidate, but Erie County Republicans, particularly the Chris Collins' wing, had another idea.

In a weighted-vote system that disenfranchised GLOW Republicans, the Erie County GOP handpicked Assemblywoman Jane Corwin.

Even so, Bellavia said, after he couldn't get on the ballot as an independent candidate, he was prepared to sit out of the race. But then, the smear campaign started. There were e-mails to his wife's coworkers and bosses suggesting nefarious conduct by Bellavia.

Until this election Bellavia has been a loyal Republican. But he believes the whisper campaign was orchestrated by Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy. He said Langworthy denied it. Langworthy couldn't be reached for comment.

Bellavia believes the Langworthy/Collins camp is taking the Western New York GOP in the wrong direction, that Corwin isn't suited for the office she seeks. While he doesn't agree with Davis on all issues, at least Davis will give you an honest opinion, according to Bellavia.

The questions Bellavia has about Jane Corwin's character began, he said, when they met at a GOP function where she told the group they were talking with that she would never use her own money for an election campaign.

At the time, Bellavia said, he didn't know who Corwin was or the Lewis family/Talking Phone Book connection.

Later, when Corwin had an opportunity to run for Assembly, according to Bellavia, Corwin promised to drop $500,000 of her own money into the race. The self-funding vow immediately caused the other GOP hopefuls to drop out of the race.

He found Corwin's seeming double-speak distasteful, he said.

“Conservatives should stand for truth and honesty,” Bellavia said. “We don’t say just anything to get elected.”

When the nomination process came around for the NY-26 special election to fill the seat vacated by Lee, Bellavia said he witnessed Corwin use the same tactic. Corwin, he said, promised to spend $5 million of her own money on the race.

So far, she’s only put about $2 million into the race and outside money is flooding into the district to shore up her campaign.

“That’s money conservative Republicans in other districts are going to need to protect their seats,” Bellavia said. “Instead of spending her own money like she promised, she’s taking money that the Republican Party will need.”

Bellavia believes the NY-26 should be represented by somebody from one of the rural counties, which are the reddest part of the district. He thinks Erie County Republicans, led by Colins and Langworthy, hold too much sway – and aren’t conservative enough – to get the NY-26 the kind of representation it deserves.

They also represent too narrow a base of Amherst, Range Rover Republicans to truly reflect the more diverse parts of the district, or the working class, rural counties.

“Where are the black conservative Republicans?” Bellavia said. “Where are the conservative Hispanic Republicans? You know they’re out there. Where are they? Where are the farmers? Why can’t we be represented by a farmer?”

The thirtysomethings gaining power in the ECGOP, Bellavia said, are unprincipled, lack values and aren't true conservatives.

He wants to see them stopped before they become entrenched, which will only happen, he said, with a Corwin defeat.

“If she loses, I can guarantee you, the next candidate will be a conservative,” Bellavia said.

“If I have to be the one to fall on a grenade to change the direction of the Republican Party in Western New York, then I’ll be happy stay out of politics, to just raise my kids and stay right here in Batavia,” he added.

Which raises the question, is Jack Davis a conservative?

“He’s right on a lot of issues,” Bellavia said.

Bellavia then listed off trade (he characterizes Jack’s position as “fair trade”), he's right on the Second Amendment (he noted Davis has a substantial gun collection and loves guns), and Davis has said he will caucus with the Republicans and the Tea Party. He said Corwin hasn’t said that she will caucus with the Tea Party.

In fact, Bellavia said that typically, the Tea Party movement is supposed to stand against mainstream, GOP insiders, and today, the Tea Party Express was in Buffalo endorsing Jane Corwin, the epitome of a GOP insider.

As for abortion – Bellavia is staunchly pro-life -- he disputed claims that Davis has said he supports partial-birth abortion. While he doesn’t agree with Davis’s overall position on abortion, he said Corwin’s position is even worse.

“She said she favored allowing abortion in the first trimester,” Bellavia said. “Nobody talks about trimesters. Either you’re pro-life or pro-choice. You only talk about trimesters if you’re a career politician trying to have it both ways.”

Bellavia said he was disappointed in New York pro-life groups when he went to them to seek support for his candidacy and was told they were going to sit on the sidelines in this race. He said one group announced that Corwin is “pro-life enough.”

As for the other candidates in the race, Bellavia said he personally likes Kathy Hochul and Ian Murphy. He called Hochul a “good Catholic and strong woman.” He also said she’s a liberal Democrat and disagrees with her on a lot of positions.

As for Murphy, he said the Green Party candidate is smart and funny.

“If Murphy gets (as much as) 2 percent of the vote, it’s going to be an embarrassment for Corwin,” Bellavia said. “He’s nailed her character. He saw in her what the Republicans should have seen in her.”

As for regrets, he has a few.

Bellavia said he likes Assemblyman Steve Hawley but regrets that he got off on the wrong foot with him.

Early on, Bellavia admitted, he said that Steve never would have been elected to the Assembly if his name was Johnson rather than Hawley. He knows that really offended Steve and he never should have said it.

Then, in the run up to this race, word leaked out that Collins, Langworthy and Carl Paladino offered Bellavia Steve Hawley’s Assembly seat if Bellavia would drop out of the congressional race (the plan was, Hawley would move to Ranzenhofer’s Senate seat and Ranzenhofer would become a judge). 

Bellavia regrets that a discussion that was supposed to remain behind closed doors among a small group of people leaked out.

He said it was an unfair to Hawley that the conversation was leaked. 

“It didn’t come from me. I never said a word,” Bellavia said. “I never even considered it for a minute and I wouldn’t take such a deal.”

Bellavia’s other regret is that some people think he’s just the “candidate scorned” and that’s the only reason he’s backing Davis.

“Honestly, 90 percent of my initial response was these guys were so nasty that I wanted to get back at them,  but I stand with Jack today,” Bellavia said. “I could have just stood back and lobbed bombs, but Jack Davis is an honorable man. I honestly believe in Jack Davis.”

We left two phone messages with Matt Harakal, spokesman for Jane Corwin, and invited him either to provide answers to interview questions or submit a response of any length at any time after publication. We followed up the phone offer with an e-mail. We also reached out to Nick Langworthy for comment and would welcome a written response from Langworthy.

It should also be noted that we’ve extended at least a half dozen invites to Jane Corwin to stop by The Batavian office for an interview. We’ve never gotten a yes or no response from Harakal to any of those requests.

Loren Penman

I was feeling good about Mr. Bellavia being a transparent, straight-up kind of guy until last week when he announced his "Salute to Veterans" party in Greece. Here's the content of the invitation in its entirety, as published in the Batavia Daily News -- READ IT CAREFULLY:

"Retired Army SSG David Bellavia of Batavia, a decorated combat veteran of the Iraq War, will host a 'Salute to Veterans' party in Rochester on Wednesday night.

The party is to celebrate the actions of the U.S. Navy Seals who recently captured and killed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

Rochester radio talk show host Bob Lonsberry will be master of ceremonies at the free chicken and pork barbecue buffet. The event is from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Barnard Exempts Restaurant & Party House, 360 Maiden Lane, Rochester.

Bellavia spent six years in the U.S. Army and fought in some of the most intense battles of the Iraq War. He was awarded the Silver Star and Bronze Star for his actions in Iraq and was recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross and Medal of Honor for his heroism in Fallujah.

He is the author of 'House to House: Epic Memoir of War' and co-founder of the national action group Vets for Freedom."

Turns out this was event was funded by Jack Davis' campaign and is where Mr. Bellavia announced his support for Mr. Davis.

A salute to veterans? A celebration of the demise of Bid Laden? No, just politics.

Is this how an honorable man gets people to come to a party? What conversation between you and Mr. Davis will be "leaked" at some later date, Mr. Bellavia? Another regret on the horizon?

May 16, 2011, 11:27pm Permalink
Lincoln DeCoursey

Personally, I appreciated the free pork and chicken. In fact I'm quite partial to any low n' slow barbecued meat.

I'm surprised that this special election has generated so much attention here, especially since the Republican leaning of the district had suggested that the race would be relatively non-competitive.

We'll see though, it sounds like some complexities have launched everything up in the air?

May 17, 2011, 1:20am Permalink
Daniel Jones

If there's one word that describes David Bellavia, it's honor. He's loyal to his principals above all else.

David - If you read this, I want you to know that regardless of what certain people are saying about you that I think that you are an American hero. You served our country with incredible bravery in Iraq and now you are going in the face of the establishment back home. I volunteered on the Jon Powers campaign in 2008 and I always remembered that you and Jon, despite being rivals, spoke of each other with a certain cordiality and respect rarely seen of today's politicians. I may be an active Democrat, and yes, my vote will go with Kathy Hochul but you should have the thanks of a grateful nation. God bless you.

May 17, 2011, 1:35am Permalink
Ed Gentner

Ms.Penman, I will take David Bellavia at his word and unless you have something more to offer than to try to denegrate someone who has served his country with great honor and distinction, perhaps you should get on the campaign bus with Jane Corwin, Nicholas Langworthy, Micahael Mallia and Karl Rove wannabes who are starting to sound more like Jane Fonda at every turn.

Bellavia was put up for the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross the two highest awards for actions above and beyond the call of duty. Ms. Penman, you might take the time out of your busy schedule to ask a veteran what it takes to be considered for those two medals and for the Silver Star was awarded. I am a veteran who can tell you, those medals are not handed out just for fun or because you kissed up to some politcian, they are awarded because the soldier has risked his or her life in comabat with out regard to his or her own safety.

David Bellavia's opinions matter because his voice is amplified by his deeds and continued service to our community and to America.

May 17, 2011, 9:35am Permalink
Jeff Allen

'Bellavia said he was disappointed in New York pro-life groups when he went to them to seek support for his candidacy and was told they were going to sit on the sidelines in this race. He said one group announced that Corwin is “pro-life enough.”'
We must have talked to the same groups, I got the same answers, is there anyone left who stands purely on principle and not political expediency?
Thank you David for your service to our country and your love for this district, I wish you had stayed with your write-in campaign, I was one of your staunchest supporters here on TheBatavian.

May 17, 2011, 9:26am Permalink
Daniel Jones

Loren - "On the evening of November 10, 2004, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant David Bellavia stood in the street outside a house in Fallujah, Iraq. Moments earlier Bellavia and eight other men from Third Platoon, A Company, Task Force 2-2 IN, had been trapped inside, pinned down by enemy fire.

They had entered the house in an attempt to clear it of insurgents when two enemy fighters, hidden under the stairwell behind a three-foot barrier, opened fire with AK-47s and a machine gun. Ricocheting bullets peppered the entrance of the house and the soldiers’ only means of escape.

Borrowing an M249 SAW from one of his men, Bellavia stepped into the hallway and opened fire, forcing the insurgents to duck behind the barrier and allowing the Americans in the house to escape. Bellavia continued firing until running out of ammunition and exiting the house.

Upon rejoining his men, Bellavia began to feel guilty, that he had let them down. He had never run from a fight before. Realizing that he had to go back in, he ordered some of his men to cover the windows and corners of the house while another soldier accompanied him inside.

The two insurgents sat waiting behind the stairs. Bellavia could hear them whispering to each other. Taking refuge in the living room, Bellavia tossed a grenade down the hall, missing long as it flew out the back door and exploding in the garden.

Looking around the room for another means to attack, Bellavia noticed mirror fragments on the wall. Not only could he see the insurgents, they could see him. One of the insurgents was young, holding two AK-47s, while the one manning the machine gun was older. Suddenly, the younger one prepared to launch a rocket, which would have set off the propane tanks that lined the room – a trap meant to kill any Americans who attempted to take the house.

Recognizing that he had to act, Bellavia rushed into the other room, catching the young man by surprise before he could fire and taking him out with his M16. As he other insurgent made a run for the door, Bellavia fired in his direction, unsure of whether his shot was on target.

Moving to take cover near the stairway, and alone after his comrade had been hit and was forced to evacuate, Bellavia noticed another insurgent in the kitchen nearby. After firing a few shots and taking cover, the insurgent ventured toward Bellavia’s location, searching for his target. Before he could react, Bellavia was able to fire off several rounds, quickly killing him.

Just after eliminating another insurgent in a nearby bedroom, bullets slammed into the wall near Bellavia’s head. Realizing he was not alone in the room, he made his way toward the closet, where he noticed two splintered holes. Right then, the insurgent broke out, making a run for the next room as Bellavia hit him with two shots in the leg.

Hearing movement in the room next door, Bellavia suddenly notices a voice, speaking in a thick accent. “I will kill you and take your dog collar. Your mommy will never find you,” taunts the voice. Turning on his night goggles, Bellavia catches the man peering into his room, killing him with his M16 before he knew what happened.

Rather than evacuate the house to bring in reinforcements, Bellavia reloaded his rifle and moved for the stairs. His luck continued as he slipped in a pool of blood just as an enemy round slammed into the wall where his head had been. Bellavia quickly recovered and tossed a grenade into the room the shot had come from. After hearing the explosion followed by a groan, he knew he had his man.

As he leveled his M16 to finish off the insurgent, Bellavia noticed that the room was packed with propane tanks, a bomb waiting to be set off by an errant shot. Knowing that to fire his weapon could be suicide, Bellavia attacked the insurgent with the butt of his rifle. The terrorist fought back, and the two became locked in hand to hand combat. Suddenly, Bellavia remembered that he had a Gerber knife in his belt, which he used to finally subdue his enemy.

Trying to clear his mind from the events that just took place, Bellavia heard a loud crash, as another man jumped from the roof, landing on a nearby patio just outside. Bellavia fired two more shots, before running out of ammunition. He grabbed he AK-47 of the nearby dead insurgent, firing rounds into the final terrorist until he fell from the patio to the garden below.

Out of energy, Bellavia, sat down and lit a cigarette, waiting for the other Americans to join him. It was his 29th birthday, spent in a far different place and in much different circumstances than he could have ever imagined.

David Bellavia would be awarded the Silver Star for his actions during the Battle of Fallujah. He has also been recommended for our nation’s highest military award – the Medal of Honor – for his valor that day. Since leaving active duty, he has become one of the strongest and most articulate advocates for those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is for this courage, and for his tireless support of his fellow veterans of this new generation, the American Veterans Center is proud to present David Bellavia with the 2009 Paul Ray Smith Award."…

May 17, 2011, 9:42am Permalink
Dave Olsen

"Does anyone else find the back room deal bartering for an assembly seat disturbing?" Lorie, Disturbing? Yes. Distasteful? Yes. Surprising? No. Good for you, David Bellavia for not accepting this offer and snubbing those smug elitists. If you want my 2 cents (and nobody would blame you if you didn't) snub the whole damn GOP, that is how they operate, run as an independent, after this disgusting campaign you may find traction.

May 17, 2011, 10:21am Permalink
Mike Weaver

Yes it is very disturbing Lorie. As long as we keep reaching for Democrats and Republicans as an automatic reflex this sort of thing will continue to happen.

Real change in governement isn't going to come at the hands of the red or blue team. They are the ones that got us here. It is going to take independents to fix the mess. Voting for red or blue means voting for more of the same.

May 17, 2011, 10:29am Permalink
George Richardson

All political discourse and snarkiness aside, Jane Fonda looks pretty damn good for a woman of seventy three. Now back to political opinion: I don't think she did a damn thing wrong for opposing an immoral and shameful war on peaceful peasants for monetary, political and power grabbing gain. Why didn't we learn from that? I say Obama should withdraw 10% of the troops each month and put them to work on rebuilding bridges, parks, museums, roads and more. You want a balanced budget and a strong national defense? Start defending the United States of America by taking care of her and let the industrial military complex retool to build construction machinery instead of destruction machinery and vote like it's 2011 instead of 1953, a very good year.

May 17, 2011, 11:14am Permalink
C. M. Barons

Jane Fonda is not running for the 26th Congressional seat. ...Neither is David Bellavia. No one has specifically called ANYONE'S service record into question (Screaming Mimi -pronounced Me Me) Mallia's charge of 'coward' was only coincidental to the backdrop of a veterans event). The introduction of Fonda into this campaign amounts to a red herring and Edmund Gentner is the fishmonger.

Loren Penman alludes to a transparent (though benign) example of a political event advertised as a 'veteran's event.' ...A political veteran's event hosted by Jack Davis. Like a cropped photograph, 'political' and 'hosted by Jack Davis' were quietly eliminated from view. The obvious and significant take-away message was Bellavia's political endorsement of Davis. It was not so obvious that Davis had sponsored the event. The addition of that missing piece of the puzzle reveals that Davis and Bellavia (and likely Lonsberry) collaborated on an event that was less about vets and more about Davis' campaign.

One assumes that neither Bellavia, Davis or Lonsberry knew that Mimi Mallia would be performing a Fay Wray impersonation in the parking lot.

May 17, 2011, 12:47pm Permalink
Daniel Jones

C.M. - There is nothing disingenuous about a candidate having a campaign event that highlights their position on the military and veterans issues and takes in an endorsement from a high-profile veteran while there. As usual, you engage in nit-picking instead of focusing on the overarching theme of what was happening there.

May 17, 2011, 2:46pm Permalink
C. M. Barons

Daniel, check the definition of 'benign.' My concern is the 'press' on this matter created the impression that this was a veteran's event that just HAPPENED to result in Bellavia endorsing Davis. It would seem NOW that Davis sponsored this event SPECIFICALLY to showcase that endorsement. Whether that is good, bad or indifferent is up to the beholder. I (for one) was surprised to hear Davis underwrote the 'event.' The fact that the 'event' (and the subsequent parking lot sideshow) has taken on a life of its own, a driving force in a four-way congressional race; it would behoove the observer to understand all of the ramifications before jumping into what is quite notably a highly emotional reaction.

May 17, 2011, 3:13pm Permalink
Ed Gentner

C.M. as a newly minted fishmonger I don't expet to see you any Friday fry at the VFW or American Legion anytime soon.

You might be to young to remember Fonda's little speech from the top of a tank in Hanoi during the Viet Nam war or the harrasment soldiers and sailors often times experienced as they were seen in uniform, or how they were made to feel like idiots for enlisting or somehow lacking intelligence when drafted.

I remember being called a coward and baby-killer because I was in uniform on more than one occassion. So excuse me if my response, to an individual who is employed by a NY State Assembly Member as her chief-of-staff pulls this kind of stunt trying to provoke a reaction calling a Marine veteran a coward at an event that was honoring the memory of the soldiers who killed in Iraq and Afghanistan is to compare him, the Corwin campaign and Erie County GOP Chairman Nicholas Langworthy, who have so far defended his actions to Jane Fonda's.

Michael Mallia was looking for a reaction, this is my reaction. Jane Corwin and Nicholas Longworthy have condoned Mallia's calling a Marine veteran a coward and have chosen to stand by his conduct, it's a free country thanks to those veterans like David Bellavia, Jack Davis and the long line of those who chose to put on the uniform.

I have compared Jane Corwin to Jane Fonda for condoning Mallia's calling a veteran a coward to provoke a reponse, it my right. It is a right that I along with my fellow veterans secured for Corwin, Longworthy and Mallia to express themselves.

May 17, 2011, 4:03pm Permalink
C. M. Barons

Edmund, I will be 58 in October. I know who Jane Fonda is, and I know that she was in Hanoi in 1972. I recall that Clark Clifford, Tom Hayden and several religious leaders were there as well. I know she was photographed sitting at an anti-aircraft weapon (normally aimed at US aircraft) and that she broadcast a speech on Radio Hanoi condemning the bombing of North Vietnam and criticizing Richard Nixon. I know she met with POWs and made some unqualified statements about their treatment.

I know she was active in VVAW and RITA. ...So were over 25,000 veterans and GIs.

My draft number in 1973 was 71. The selective service called 101 - 200 just ahead of my 19th birthday, and I was reclassified 1-H.

I have never disrespected those who serve(d), and although I don't recall partaking of a fish fry in a VFW; I've knocked down untold beers, chicken barbecues and likely a ton of pasta and sauce. ...Not that I fully understand your reference to (not) seeing me in a VFW. I have no intention of avoiding VFW and American Legion events just because I don't see eye-to-eye with Jack Davis.

The two premises have nothing to do with one another. I spoke with a Vietnam vet last evening at work. He thinks Jack Davis is "another Golisano- out to buy his way in." Apparently not every vet is lined up behind Davis.

I am savvy enough to see the political advantage to drawing a parallel between Jane Corwin and Jane Fonda. I can't condemn political tactics such as tracking, baiting and harassing candidates for the sake of manufacturing cheap shots at their character (on the one hand) and ignore half-truth and red herring (just because it's aimed at defeating a tool like Corwin).

If you have been following my comments relative to MiMi Mallia's harangue, you know I do not cotton to it. I think there was more bravery in Jack's NOT debating than had he participated in WGRZ's sham.

'Fair is fair' is not the same as 'eye for an eye.'

May 18, 2011, 2:43am Permalink
Bea McManis

What happen after the event certainly took on a life of it's own.
When I read Loren's post, I was surprised to learn that it was not billed as a political event sponsored by Davis for the express purpose of receiving David's endorsement.
Twisting that post to a point where Loren, C.M. or others are disrespecting the troops is wrong.
Jumping on the emotional bandwagon to absolve the Davis camp from being upfront about who sponsored the event, and why, ignores the fact that our local vets were invited to be window dressing to that endorsement.
Loren owes no one an apology for bringing this information to light.

May 18, 2011, 7:41am Permalink
Lorie Longhany

There is so much in this one article to absorb and I just think that we are missing so much by arguing on the merit of the event itself. I respect Loren's opinion and certainly know she would never be disrespectful to a veteran. And David and his veterans group may have wanted to have an event to mark the killing of Osama bin Laden and also saw it as a venue and a political opportunity to bring Jack Davis into the event. Campaigns will use these opportunities to bring a candidate into a room full of people that they want to persuade. Does this event cross a line? Maybe, but Jack is a Marine and Coast Guard veteran -- he qualified to be in that room.

My problem is this:
<i>Then, in the run up to this race, word leaked out that Collins, Langworthy and Carl Paladino offered Bellavia Steve Hawley’s Assembly seat if Bellavia would drop out of the congressional race (the plan was, Hawley would move to Ranzenhofer’s Senate seat and Ranzenhofer would become a judge).

Bellavia regrets that a discussion that was supposed to remain behind closed doors among a small group of people leaked out.

He said it was an unfair to Hawley that the conversation was leaked.

“It didn’t come from me. I never said a word,” Bellavia said. “I never even considered it for a minute and I wouldn’t take such a deal.” </i>

Over and over again with this cast of characters their seems to be shenanigans.

May 18, 2011, 8:41am Permalink

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