Today, Medal of Honor recipient David Bellavia issued a statement confirming that he will not seek the NY-27 congressional seat, endings months of speculation in political circles about his plans.
“I am formally announcing I will not run for Congress in the 27th District of New York in the upcoming Special Election. My service to our great community and country is unwavering, but I have a new responsibility to the U.S. Army. The Medal of Honor recognition is providing me with an incredible opportunity to serve at a level not thought possible just a few months ago. I am traveling the country, as an ambassador for Western New York, educating and influencing future soldiers and fellow citizens, as well as training and advising military leadership.
"Acting upon my long-standing and sincere desire to run for Congress at this time would require me to set aside pre-existing commitments I have made to my Army, my family, and those with whom I do business. I have carefully considered the needs and advice of party leadership and those closest to me and I am extremely thankful and forever humbled by the overwhelming support from Western New York.
"Go Bills! Go Sabres!”
Bellavia ran for the seat in the 2012 primary and lost to Chris Collins, who resigned office three weeks ago in conjunction with his guilty plea on federal insider trading charges.
Currently, Bellavia is traveling and is unavailable for further comment.
It's expected that Gov. Andrew Cuomo will call a special election at which point GOP candidates will likely be interviewed by the seven GOP county committee chairs in the district and the chairs will select a candidate for the special election ballot.
That wouldn't preclude any candidate from any party running on a third-party line, as Jack Davis did in 2011 after Chris Lee resigned. Bellavia endorsed Davis in that race and Kathy Hochul beat the handpicked GOP candidate, Jane Corwin.
Assuming there is a special election, likely April 28, in conjunction with the Democratic presidential primary in New York, there would still be a primary election in June and a general election in November 2020.
After Bellavia won the Medal of Honor, political consultant and Trump ally Michael Caputo started a Draft David Bellavia committee in an effort to show Bellavia that he had the support of voters in the district to run and win the seat. Most political observers considered him a shoo-in to win if he ran.
Caputo issued the following statement:
The 27th Congressional District has the luxury of a wealth of qualified Republican candidates. Our draft team thought David was the best one, but only if it matched his aspirations. We respect his decision and wish him the best the world has to offer. We also look forward to seeing what this new chapter brings in his life of service to our nation.
There are potential candidates for the seat who have been waiting on the sidelines for Bellavia to make his decision, including Assemblyman Steve Hawley and Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw.
Hawley issued the following statement:
I have the utmost respect for David and his service to our country. His decision to continue his service as an emissary for the U.S. Army is laudable and honorable. I will continue to weigh my options. I enjoy being an elected representative in Western New York fighting for the values that make our area very special. It’s HOME.
"NY27’s loss is the country’s gain - and I know David will continue to serve our country with honor and excellence in his next role. David deserved the respect and time to make his decision, on his terms, and as I’ve said, I would make a decision once he made his.
One thing I am certain of - with impeachment of President Trump on the line, we cannot let this seat fall into the hands of a pro-choice, Never Trumper who only claims to support the President now that there’s a political promotion on the line. Washington doesn’t need another weak, opportunistic politician - it needs fearless conservatives who will take the fight to the Democrats and stand with President Trump.
Within the next few days, I’ll make a final decision on running in NY-27 to ensure we have a voice that actually fights for conservatives, not one that simply poses as a conservative."
Among the candidates already running is State Sen. Rob Ortt. Here's his statement:
“U.S. Army SSG. David Bellavia is a national hero who will continue to serve our country in a manner that we should all be grateful for. I commend David on his decision to continue representing the Army and for his work founding the Deuce Deuce Relief Fund, and I look forward to working with him in the future to ensure that our veterans are made a priority when returning home from combat. The health and well-being of our veterans are one of the reasons I have chosen to run for Congress, and the need for battle-tested veteran leadership in Washington, D.C. is greater now than ever before.”
Photo: File photo by Paula Zack of David Bellavia receiving the key to the city from Batavia City Council President Eugene Jankowski.