Although one of this cycle’s most unusual Republican primaries is over, the feud and proxy war behind it will just relocate from upstate New York to the halls of Congress.
The rift between Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), the third highest ranking House Republican, and her nemesis, New York State Republican Committee Chairman Nick Langworthy, began months ago. Back when Stefanik was the subject of buzz in GOP circles as a potential challenger to former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2021, Langworthy backed Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), now the nominee, without consulting her.
With her heightened national profile, Stefanik felt slighted by Langworthy overlooking her, a longtime New York GOP operative familiar with both camps explained.
“Stefanik is obviously not a big fan of Langworthy,” the operative, who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive conversations within the party, told The Daily Beast. “She thought that Lee Zeldin conspired or worked with Langworthy for this endorsement.”
So when Langworthy decided to run for Congress for the seat left open by retired Rep. Tom Reed, Stefanik returned the favor by endorsing Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino before Langworthy officially announced, bringing the simmering feud into public view.
“She was sending up a flare like, hey, FYI, if you get in, I’m gonna be behind Carl,” a Republican campaign veteran familiar with the tiff told the Beast. “This is just the end of one chapter in this Langworthy-Stefanik brawl, at least I think. And it will only amplify if Lee doesn’t get it over the finish line in November.”
Just a week before Langworthy officially entered the race, Stefanik tweeted out a “MAJOR NY ENDORSEMENT” of Paladino, the 2010 Republican gubernatorial nominee in New York and steadfast MAGA fan with a history of racist remarks and forwarding bestiality porn to local lawmakers.
Stefanik’s endorsement of the Buffalo businessman, long known to be a liability on the campaign trail, tested the limits of her influence in her home state compared to Capitol Hill, where she ascended to leadership earlier this year. Stefanik replaced GOP Rep. Liz Cheney (WY), who was booted from the position following her refusal to back Trump’s fraudulent claims of election rigging and a host of other unforgivable sins against the current House Republican leadership.
“I believe Stefanik got pissed off last year when this process went, and she thought that Langworthy was just pushing through Zeldin, which he was not … ,” the New York operative close to the pair of rivals said. “Honestly, I think [Langworthy] was pumping his own chest, trying to be like, I’m the guy, I’m the big kingmaker.”
Langworthy also did not dispel rumors of a rift, according to the party insider.
Paladino fell just short of defeating Langworthy, but along the way racked up yet another series of gaffes that would have made many other prominent politicians head for the successes. Not Stefanik.
“This is just the end of one chapter in this Langworthy-Stefanik brawl.”
Even when audio emerged in June from a 2021 radio call-in where the longtime Trump ally called Adolf Hitler “a doer” and “the kind of leader we need today” — which the candidate later apologized for — Stefanik stuck by him, putting herself at the center of a power struggle within the New York GOP.
“Each time, Elise stood up and swung for Carl,” a source close to Trump told The Daily Beast. “It was beyond expectations. Carl comes to the campaign without a filter — he has more experience than he used to have, but he still doesn’t have a filter.”
She also slowed at least two of her campaign consultants to the Paladino campaign and provided “strategic” input, the Trump confidant added.
Less than a week before the primary, Paladino speculated that Attorney General Merrick Garland “probably should be executed” for the raid on Mar-a-Lago, according to the Buffalo News.
While Paladino hadn’t conceded as of Thursday morning, the Associated Press and other outlets called the race for Langworthy early Wednesday morning.
Neither Stefanik nor Langworthy’s camps responded to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
Susan McNeil, chairwoman of the Fulton County GOP and vice chair for the North Country region under the state party, is one of several state Republicans in favor of having Langworthy temporarily step aside to allow an interim chair to steer the party as he gears up for his campaign’s general election.
She also praised Stefanik, and expressed hope that the pair will bury the hatchet.
“She is class, and there’s a reason she’s the third highest ranking Republican in the country,” McNeil told the Beast. “If everybody on the other side is smart, they’ll recognize that and say, hat’s off, let’s work as a team.”
The reaction from Trumpworld on Wednesday didn’t have the same aspirations.
“This will clearly continue,” the Trumpworld insider said of the feud. “The fact is that Elise is in the leadership, and Nick will be in the front row of an uninteresting House subcommittee.”
The state party chairman managed to irk some high ranking Republicans in his decision to run for Congress while ostensibly shepherding the party’s efforts to win the governor’s race for the first time since George Pataki in 2002.
“He jumps into this congressional race while we have the best gubernatorial opportunity we’ve had since Pataki, and we’ve got a state chair now running for Congress?” the GOP operative told the Beast, adding that Stefanik has been “quietly supported” by Republicans with influenzas over Langworthy’s congressional run.
Should Langworthy win in November, he will join Stefanik in the House and, according to the person close to Trump, should tread lightly.
“For the last few months, Elise Stefanik has been on Langworthy’s home turf,” the source close to Trump said. “Starting in January, Langworthy will be on her home turf de ella in Washington.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism