By Peter Savodnik - 05/10/05 12:00 AM EDT
New York state Assemblyman Jack Quinn III (R), the son of former Rep. Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.), has emerged as a potential 2006 contender for his father’s old seat.
Gun activists are particularly enthused about Quinn, who said in an interview yesterday that the only area where he markedly differs from his father is the Second Amendment.
“I have come out in favor of Second Amendment rights,” he said. “I know it’s an issue my father kind of had problems with back in the day. I’m much more of a supporter on a principled level.”
It’s too early to say whom the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun-rights groups would support in next year’s race, given that Congress has yet to vote on major gun-related items and that Rep. Brian Higgins, the Democrat who succeeded Rep. Quinn after Quinn’s retirement, does not have a gun-rights record.
There are two pieces of legislation the NRA is most interested in. One bill would shield gun manufacturers from liability; another would repeal a gun ban in Washington, D.C.
But a gun lobbyist said yesterday that the younger Quinn would enjoy gun owners’ support should he run for the 27th District House seat.
Higgins has portrayed himself as a centrist on gun issues who supports the right to bear arms while seeking some public-safety restrictions. The gun lobbyist suggested that wouldn’t assuage gun owners, saying that Higgins is “a mixed bag” and that Quinn would mark “a pickup.”
Suzanne Anziska, a spokeswoman for Higgins, said he had had a 99 percent NRA rating while in the state Assembly. It is unclear if that figure applies to a given year or reflects Higgins’s six-year average in the state capital.
Quinn, 27, stressed that it is premature to be making any decisions about challenging Higgins and that “job No. 1” is serving his constituents in the state Assembly.
But the state lawmaker, who has been in office in Albany for only four and a half months, left open the possibility of a congressional bid. “I wouldn’t rule out anything,” he said. “I learned that a long time ago from my father: Never rule out anything.”
The gun lobbyist added: “I think Quinn’s just trying to keep his powder dry until the right time. He can still wait a year and still run a pretty good race if he starts next year.”
For now, Republicans in Washington and New York said, only a handful of names of potential contenders are being floated. Other possibilities mentioned were Nancy Naples, who narrowly lost to Higgins in 2004, and Patrick Gallivan, the Erie County sheriff.
While Gallivan is wrapping up his second four-year term as sheriff and, with a large base, is positioned for a House bid, Naples is unlikely to get into the race, having retired from politics earlier this year. “She’s not going to run,” said Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC).
Forti observed that Assemblyman Quinn had been mentioned as a possible House candidate in 2004.
Gallivan could not be reached for comment yesterday. An assistant at the sheriff’s office said he was at a funeral for a family member.
As one of the only House seats to switch party hands last year, New York-27 is certain to be a top priority for both Democrats and Republicans in 2006. Higgins is on the Democrats’ “Frontline” list of vulnerable incumbents.
Higgins, a former state legislator, won the 2004 race with 51 percent of the vote, capturing a seat in a Democratic-leaning swatch of western New York that had been in the GOP column for 12 years. In anticipation of next year’s race, the congressman has begun aggressively raising money, collecting nearly $142,000 in the first quarter of 2005 and ending the period with $131,000 in the bank.
Last year, Higgins and Naples together raised roughly $3 million.
Quinn and Ralph Vanner, first vice chairman of the Erie County Republican Committee, said that local elections at the end of this year had absorbed most of the public’s attention. But Vanner quickly added that 2006 might be the GOP’s best hope of winning back the seat, emphasizing that local Republican officials are determined to spend the resources necessary.
“I think they feel if they’re going to take the seat back it’s going to be done this coming year,” Vanner said. “Once a congressman gets in there a couple years, it’s usually over.”