Then there were 4. That is now four Republican candidates for the 2016 New York 22nd congressional race (there is also at this time a single Democrat candidate in the race). This revelation came upon the public, once again, very quietly. As part of our effort to provide the single most comprehensive coverage of the NY-22 race we looked into Steve Wells, the latest newcomer seeking the Republican nomination.
On February 9, 2016, the Madison County Republican Committee met to hear from candidates seeking endorsement and introducing themselves to the Committee members. This was part of a process agreed upon by the Chairmembers of the majority of Counties comprising the NY-22 district. That agreement, included the stipulation that all candidates would be vetted by the Chairmembers and must be declared prior to appearing at any County event. This brings up the curious case of Steve Wells.
As we exclusively reported on January 26, 2016, Mr. Wells was rumored to be entering the NY-22 race. The domain name stevewellsforcongress.com had already been purchased on January 8, 2016. Mr. Wells had already met with the Chairmembers of the various 8 Counties in the congressional district. But no public comment announcing an intent to run has yet to be made. Our calls to Mr. Wells seeking clarification went unanswered.
Part of our questions concerned the fact Mr. Wells has no apparent political experience beyond his political donations over the years. Mr. Wells has made political donations regularly since 2000. Oddly, he has donated to Republicans and Democrats over 15 years. His donations include those to Former Rep. Dan Maffei and Former Rep. Bill Owens, but most recently $10,000 to Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2015.
What makes this even stranger, is that as reported by Syracuse.com on February 11, 2016, Mr. Wells states that he is the New York Republican State Committee upstate regional finance chair – a position that is listed on NYGOP.com as belonging to Arcadio Casillas. We reached out to Jessica Proud, spokeswoman of the NY Republican State Committee, to confirm when Mr. Wells served in this position.
As stated by spokeswoman Proud, on the same day as the article by Mark Weiner, Mr. Wells took on the voluntary position of Central NY Financial Chair in 2013, a position he maintains at this time. It was during this timeframe that Mr. Wells has donated to Democrat Bill Owens and Gov. Cuomo. Spokeswoman Proud noted that the NY Republican State Committee was unaware of these donations, but that any legal donation to any candidate, elected official, or Party is not restricted in any manner. In addition we again made calls to Mr. Wells for this article, and received no response.
“He has every right to donate to whomever he wants. I’m not aware if anyone is aware of it [donations to Democrats and Gov. Cuomo], it’s not something we monitor.” – NY Republican State Committee spokeswoman Jessica Proud
Still, with these unexplained oddities in place, Mr. Wells sought the endorsement of Madison County. He did not appear at the Broome County meeting on February 2, 2016, which was restricted (in accordance with the agreement of the Chairs) to declared candidates. In a 3 hour multi-round vote, Mr. Wells won in Madison County by some 2 votes over frontrunner Claudia Tenney of Oneida County, as several of our sources have stated. The Madison County Republican Party website does not currently list Steve Wells, nor mention that he has publicly announced a run (though the website has not been updated since before November 2015).
In the Madison County meeting, declared Broome County candidate George Phillips lost early in the first round of voting. Adding to the mounting questions was the appearance of Martin Babinec – an undeclared individual who apparently changed his Party affiliation but is not considered a registered Republican for the 2016 race. Declared candidate Aaron Price, also from Broome County, was not at the event.
We reached Mr. Price about his absence from the Madison County event. He stated to us on February 11, 2016, that though he is a declared candidate he was not invited to the Madison County event. He also stated that while he was aware of rumors of Mr. Wells entering the race, he had no other information about him. Mr. Price said via phone interview, that he has been invited to the Herkimer County Committee meeting, and that
“I am certainly disappointed the other Republican Committees have not reached out to me. I’m sorry that people are trying to exclude me from the process, that’s not the way our democracy should work.” – candidate Aaron Price
Mr. Price went on to discuss his views about the issue of immigration, and challenged the other Republican candidates on their positions. Mr. Price contends that illegal aliens take jobs from American citizens and those that have the least skills in the workforce, and that representatives in Congress should protect American citizens interests first from those illegal aliens in the nation. When asked how his views compare to the other candidates, he was only aware of Claudia Tenney holding a position on closing borders.
The Tenney campaign issued a press release on Mr. Wells entering the race on February 11, 2016. That press release, which addresses Mr. Wells donations to Syracuse Mayor and former state Democratic Party co-chair Stephanie Miner and Gov. Cuomo, states in part,
“Cuomo’s failed policies have made New York the highest taxed state in the nation, driving over 600,000 people out of our state in the past four years. Wells support of Cuomo’s job killing agenda proves that he is not the right person to represent NY-22, which is home to two of the most economically depressed areas in the country – Utica-Rome and Binghamton.” – Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney
With so many apparent questions (from fellow candidates and the public at large) outstanding about Steve Wells and whatever political positions he may or may not hold, we also sought comment from Broome County Chairman Bijoy Datta and repeated requests to Madison County Chairman Todd Rouse. Neither responded to our request for comment for this article. Which leaves a mystery in place.
Not only a mystery on the challenge over illegal immigration (and any currently publicly undisclosed political platform) that candidates Steve Wells and George Phillips hold as Mr. Price raised, but on several other substantive issues. Issues that voters are sure to demand answers over.
Steve Wells stated in the Syracuse.com article that he has filed with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). But a search of FEC filings shows no such filing – though depending on the date such a filing was made it may not yet be available. A question remains on when Mr. Wells filed and why he failed to inform the public in any manner about his intent to run. Especially as it appears that Mr. Wells has been preparing and/or considering to enter the NY-22 race since at least early January. Not to mention the fact that only declared candidates were to be considered for endorsement.
As previously reported by us exclusively, there is the question regarding Mr. Wells residence in relation to his donations. Donations to Republicans and Democrats over the past 15 years list multiple addresses for those donations. These addresses include: Binghamton, Cazenovia, Faetteville, Liverpool, and Syracuse. According to his Madison County appearance Mr. Wells lives in Cazenovia, which then leaves the question of why he has made campaign donations from the range of locations documented.
Also, there is a question about why Mr. Wells is running for office. In the Syracuse.com article there is no mention of his reason for this run. The domain name is not currently linked to a website for public viewing, and provides no data. As we reported prior there are no public statements on any political issues. The only confirmed public comment attributed to Mr. Wells remains a Youtube video of Mr. Wells advising new entrants in the workforce to dumb down their interactions with the superiors they work for.
In summation, while Steve Wells may have narrowly won the Madison County endorsement, voters and constituents in the New York 22nd Congressional district are left in the dark. Mr. Wells remains as deeply hidden in the shadows as he was when rumors of his involvement first surfaced. Much as was the case with George Phillips, a campaign started in apparent stealth has led to an endorsement with the public in need of answers to basic substantive questions about the candidate and their causes.