Lang­wor­thy puts youth in fore­front for the GOP

At 29, county leader is ex­ud­ing op­ti­mism

The Buffalo News - - CITY&REGION - By Robert J. McCarthy

When Ni­cholas A. Lang­wor­thy leads the Erie County del­e­ga­tion to the Repub­li­can State Con­ven­tion in Man­hat­tan next month, some griz­zled old pol might just bar him from en­ter­ing the smoke-filled back­rooms.

With a kid­like mug and only 29 years old, Lang­wor­thy hardly looks old enough to smoke, let alone lead the Erie County Repub­li­can Party.

Yet that’s ex­actly the po­si­tion he as­sumes af­ter the GOP County Com­mit­tee meet­ing Wed­nes­day. He be­comes the youngest per­son to lead a lo­cal po­lit­i­cal party in any­one’s me­mory.

To al­most ev­ery­one who knows him, how­ever, the son of a Chau­tauqua County tav­ern owner ap­pears as a ris­ing star in po­lit­i­cal cir­cles, with more ex­pe­ri­ence than many of his el­ders.

“He’s where he is be­cause of a com­bi­na­tion of in­tel­li­gence, po­lit­i­cal in­tu­ition and flat-out hard work,” said for­mer Ni­a­gara County Repub­li­can Chair­man Henry F. Wo­j­taszek. “The fact that he’s chair­man at 29 does not sur­prise me in the slight­est, and I could have told you that a long time ago.”

Lang­wor­thy as­sumes com­mand of up­state New York’s biggest Repub­li­can or­ga­ni­za­tion at an op­ti­mistic time. As just-de­parted Chair-

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man James P. Do­ma­gal­ski pur­sues the State Se­nate seat be­ing va­cated by long­time Repub­li­can in­cum­bent Dale M. Volker, Lang­wor­thy looks for more GOP suc­cesses such as the elec­tion of Chris Collins as county ex­ec­u­tive and Chris Lee as con­gress­man from the 26th District.

Still, he faces a pres­sure-filled chal­lenge to elect Assem­bly­man Jack F. Quinn III to the State Se­nate seat held for nearly 30 years by Demo­crat Wil­liam T. Sta­chowski in a con­test that could de­ter­mine con­trol of the up­per house. He also must tip­toe through a po­ten­tially di­vi­sive Se­nate pri­mary pit­ting Do­ma­gal­ski against as many as three other Repub­li­cans (he en­thu­si­as­ti­cally backs Do­ma­gal­ski) and ma­neu­ver through rocky Repub­li­can wa­ters lead­ing to the nom­i­na­tion of a gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date.

Wed­nes­day night, the GOP County Com­mit­tee unan­i­mously en­dorsed Do­ma­gal­ski for the Volker seat.

Lang­wor­thy said for­mer Erie County Sher­iff Pa­trick M. Gal­li­van, who has been con­sid­er­ing a run for the State Se­nate, chose not to ad­dress the com­mit­tee. “He called ear­lier to say he was not yet sure he would be a can­di­date for of­fice, but was giv­ing care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion to a po­ten­tial can­di­dacy,” Lang­wor­thy said.

Lan­caster Vil­lage Mayor Wil­liam G. Cans­dale Jr., who had been seek­ing the en­dorse­ment, did ad­dress the com­mit­tee, Lang­wor­thy said, and an­other Se­nate hope­ful, for­mer East Aurora Mayor David J. DiPi­etro, did not at­tend.

Lang­wor­thy eas­ily won his new post Wed­nes­day, re­flect­ing uni­ver­sal con­fi­dence among Repub­li­cans — de­spite his age.

“He’s ready-made for Erie County’s good and tough pol­i­tics,” said for­mer Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, Lee’s pre­de­ces­sor, who trusted Lang­wor­thy to man­age his two rough con­gres­sional cam­paigns in 2004 and 2006. “He has great in­stincts, a nat­u­ral abil­ity and savvy wor­thy of some­one twice his age. Age will not be a fac­tor for Nick Lang­wor­thy at all.”

A grad­u­ate of Pine Val­ley Cen­tral School in South Day­ton and Ni­a­gara Uni­ver­sity, Lang­wor­thy grav­i­tated to pol­i­tics as a kid. He was pres­i­dent of his class and the Stu­dent Coun­cil at Pine Val­ley, and by the time he got to Ni­a­gara, he knew he was bit­ten by the po­lit­i­cal bug.

He started a Ni­a­gara chap­ter of the Col­lege Repub­li­cans, be­came state pres­i­dent of the or­ga­ni­za­tion in 2001 and served as an in­tern to then-Gov. Ge­orge E. Pataki. By 2002, he was man­ag­ing Wo­j­taszek’s un­suc­cess­ful con­gres­sional cam­paign against Demo­crat Louise M. Slaugh­ter of Fair­port — at age 21.

“I’ve al­ways loved pol­i­tics,” Lang­wor- thy said this week. “I’m go­ing to win them over with my work ethic. No one is go­ing to out­work me.”

Af­ter The Buf­falo News pro­filed him as the young man­ager of Wo­j­taszek’s 2002 cam­paign, Reynolds re­cruited him for his staff. There he evolved into, as he de­scribes him­self now, “a be­hind-thescenes guy.”

“He cer­tainly has been bat­tle-tested in the cam­paigns he was with me,” Reynolds said. “He was with me in ’04 and again in ’06 as a cen­tral fig­ure in one of the most com­plex races in the coun­try.”

Lang­wor­thy refers to his work for Reynolds as “my mas­ter’s de­gree.” He left Reynolds’ con­gres­sional staff in 2008 to man­age Lee’s suc­cess­ful con­gres­sional cam­paign and then joined his Amherst of­fice.

Lee is also a fan, say­ing this week that Lang­wor­thy “knows what it takes to run a party, win elec­tions and re­cruit solid can­di­dates.”

Now Lang­wor­thy will leave Lee to be­come the full-time, salaried chair­man of the Erie County Repub­li­can Com­mit­tee.

“I have to de­vote the en­ergy to the party that I think is nec­es­sary,” he said. “It will be a full-time com­mit­ment.”

Lang­wor­thy said he has learned much from the three chair­men he has served — Reynolds, Do­ma­gal­ski and Robert E. Davis.

The phi­los­o­phy that Lang­wor­thy has dis­tilled from them is sim­ple, he said:

“Stick to our prin­ci­ples and win elec­tions.”

He calls 2010 a “fire wall elec­tion” be­cause of the GOP’s need to re­take a Se­nate ma­jor­ity to pre­vent Democrats from reap­por­tion­ing Repub­li­can law­mak­ers vir­tu­ally out of ex­is­tence in New York State. And while nei­ther he nor his com­mit­tee has of­fi­cially com­mit­ted to a can­di­date for gover­nor, he sounds much like Do­ma­gal­ski in prais­ing Buf­falo busi­ness­man Carl P. Pal­adino.

“He’s a guy who says in his mes­sage a lot of the same things peo­ple are say­ing in their liv­ing rooms,” he said.

The new chair­man says he rel­ishes his new op­por­tu­nity be­cause county Repub­li­cans have an abil­ity to win even on over­whelm­ingly Demo­cratic turf.

Lang­wor­thy says he is will­ing to take ad­vice. One of those of­fer­ing it is Joseph F. Cran­gle, who be­came Erie County Demo­cratic chair­man in 1965 at age 33.

“There is one ba­sic thing: Lis­ten be­fore you make a judg­ment,” Cran­gle said. “Get the ben­e­fit of peo­ple who have been around, but re­al­ize there are new chal­lenges and new ways of do­ing things.”

As he be­gins his chair­man­ship, “I’m ex­cited,” Lang­wor­thy said. “We’re re­ally united now. Our op­po­nents are not.”

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