On Tuesday night, Republican voters rejected a septuagenarian New York real-estate mogul with a history of problematic comments: Carl Paladino.
Described by one ally as “the Donald Trump of Buffalo,” Paladino lost the primary for the 23rd Congressional District over the chairman of the state GOP, Nick Langworthy.
A longtime fixture of upstate New York politics, Paladino first received statewide and national attention in 2010 when he was the GOP gubernatorial nominee against Andrew Cuomo. Although he lost in a landslide, he managed to make himself a tabloid staple in a campaign that the New York Times recently recalled as “equal parts carnival ride and train wreck.” That campaign started with the revelation that he had forwarded a number of pornographic emails that included racist comments, many of which targeted Barack and Michelle Obama. In its final days, he gave remarks to a gathering of Orthodox Jewish rabbis in which he worried about children being “brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option.” When he eventually conceded the race to Cuomo, he did so while brandishing a baseball bat onstage.
In 2014, Paladino chose not to run again but instead tried and failed to recruit Trump to run for governor. When Trump set his aim higher, Paladino became one of his most ardent supporters — and one of the rare figures too controversial for Trump when Paladino gave an interview to a Buffalo publication in which he said his New Year’s wishes for 2017 were for Barack Obama to die of mad cow disease and for Michelle Obama to “return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.” In 2017, he was removed from an elected position on the Buffalo school board for leaking confidential information about the school board’s negotiations with the local teachers union.
This year, Paladino has tried to avoid media scrutiny with little success thanks to his own outlandish comments. In a 2021 interview unearthed during the campaign, he praised Adolf Hitler as “the kind of leader we need today.” He apologized for the comment but insisted “any implication that I support Hitler or any of the sick and disgusting actions of the Nazi regime is a new low for the media.” Last week, he suggested during a radio interview that Attorney General Merrick Garland should be executed after the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, though he quickly added that he was joking. “I’m just being facetious. The man should be removed from office,” he said.
Paladino was backed by some of the most vocal Trump allies on Capitol Hill including Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene. He also received the ardent support of fellow New York Republican Elise Stefanik, who became the chair of the House Republican Conference in 2021 after Liz Cheney stepped down from the position. Trump did not endorse anyone in the race, in which both candidates cast themselves as ardent supporters of the former president.