Joe Sempolinski, a local Republican Party leader and former congressional aide, won a special election on Tuesday for a vacant House seat in western New York, according to The Associated Press, keeping the sprawling rural district under Republican control.
The race was surprisingly close, but Mr. Sempolinski was ultimately able to capitalize on his deep Republican Party ties in one of the most conservative regions of the state to repel a Democratic challenge by Max Della Pia, an Air Force veteran.
Mr. Sempolinski had won 53 percent of the vote, compared with 47 percent for Mr. Della Pia, with 95 percent of votes counted. Mr. Trump won the district by 12 points in 2020.
In the short term, the Republican victory will serve to tighten Democrats’ already narrow margin in the House of Representatives in Washington. The seat in the 23rd Congressional District, centered in New York’s rural Southern Tier and running west to Lake Erie, had been vacant since Representative Tom Reed, a Republican, left the House in May to take a position at a Washington lobbying firm.
Mr. Sempolinski’s time in Washington will be short-lived. A former aide to Mr. Reed and a current Republican county chairman, he does not plan to run for a full term in November’s midterm election.
“I am looking forward to hitting the ground running and making sure constituent services are back up and working” Mr. Sempolinski, 39, said on Tuesday night after securing the victory. “We have no time to waste.”
Despite his defeat in the special election, Mr. Della Pia, 69, will be on the ballot again in November as the Democratic nominee for the newly reconfigured 23rd District. On the campaign trail, he has highlighted his long military service, stressed a bipartisan approach to governance and said he would prioritize creating jobs and protecting the environment.
Mr. Della Pia will face the winner of a bitter Republican primary contest between Carl P. Paladino, a wealthy businessman known for his impolitic public statements, and Nick Langworthy, the chairman of the New York Republican Party.
The new district, which will include portions of suburban and exurban Buffalo in addition to the Southern Tier, still heavily favors Republicans. But if Mr. Paladino prevails, his far right positions and explosive statements on race and history could make the race more competitive.