Saying both sides have more in common than what separates them, Erie County Republican Committee Chairman Nick Langworthy on Wednesday morning announced his party's endorsement of Michael Kearns, a registered Democrat, as their candidate for Erie County Clerk.
Langworthy formally extended the Republican Party's endorsement to Kearns inside their Main Street headquarters.
"His willingness to do what's right, his courage, his fiscal conservatism... I am convinced he is the best candidate this year that's going to win the office of Erie County Clerk," Langworthy said. "I'm proud to stand with him every step of the way."
Kearns sees the Clerk's office as an opportunity to further some of his accomplishments in the Assembly, including the eradication of derelict "zombie" properties.
"It's important to know that now when I consider this position, and am a candidate for this position, that this is a non-partisan office," Kearns said.
Langworthy noted that the GOP's support for Kearns dates back to 2012, when they supported his run in a special election for State Assembly. The Democratic Party backed Christopher Fahey in that race to replace Mark Schroeder, who left the office to become the City of Buffalo's Comptroller. Kearns defeated Fahey and later that year won a full term, running unopposed and with the endorsements of the Democratic, Republican, Conservative and Working Families parties.
"You see him constantly in the news right now, fighting for the Children's Psychatric Center here in Western New York, taking on very powerful and entrenched interests with the governor, being willing to stand up and be counted even when it's not the popular position by party leaders or different political bosses in Albany," Langworthy said.
But Kearns insists he remains a Democrat, even though he has stood up to party leadership, including former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, on numerous occasions.
The current chairman of the Erie County Democratic Committee, however, says Kearns has shown himself to be anything but a loyal member of the party. Jeremy Zellner told WBFO Kearns has yet to denounce Buffalo School Board member Carl Paladino for his inflammatory remarks about Barack and Michelle Obama in Artvoice last December, and backed Paladino over Andrew Cuomo in their 2010 race for governor.
"While most people are running away from Trump and the Republicans, Kearns is running to them to further his own political career," Zellner said. "We're very concerned and upset that he is doing this. We're going to be supporting Democrats who work to improve the lives of people in Erie County, hard-working families."
Although the Democratic Committee has not yet endorsed a candidate, Zellner said they are most likely to support local historian and former broadcaster Steve Cichon for the race.