Last Updated on August 21, 2022
Kevin McCarthy’s Congressional Leadership Fund is backing Steve Wells for Congress in New York’s 22nd District, the chosen successor of outgoing Trump impeachment voter Rep. John Katko. Opposite of Wells is Brandon Williams, the America First candidate endorsed by the district’s Conservative Party committees. Like in other races around the country, the GOP’s nominating contest has morphed into a battle between the McCarthy-aligned anti-Trump establishment and the grassroots MAGA movement.
In the closing days of the 22nd District’s GOP Primary race, the Kevin McCarthy-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund has dropped over $300,000 on pro-Wells advertisements, bringing the establishment PAC’s total investment in Steve Wells’ candidacy to a whopping $681,663. All in all, the Congressional Leadership Fund has spent more money on the race than Wells’ own campaign has, propping up a candidate that has outright refused to debate his opponent and appears to be in a deep rut ahead of voters going to the polls.
With Rep. Katko, like other GOP impeachment voters, too unpopular to win re-election to Congress, he announced shortly following his 2021 impeachment vote that he’d be leaving Washington after the next election cycle.
“Great news, another one bites the dust,” President Trump said at the time.
Now, Katko’s former staff is running the Wells campaign in the newly-drawn 22nd District and National File has learned that just last month, Katko introduced Wells to a number of DC insiders and lobbyists.
Wells openly appears to have been positioned as Katko’s chosen successor and in addition to receiving the guidance of his former staff and networking with well-connected folks in Washington, Wells has donated more than $24,000 to Katko’s campaigns. What’s more, just after the outgoing Congressman voted with Democrats to impeach President Trump, Wells gave him a maximum donation.
According to campaign finance reports, when he wasn’t donating to Katko, Wells, who was formerly registered as a Democrat, donated $33,000 to disgraced ex-Governor Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo vowed to ban guns and presided over New York’s disastrous and deadly COVID-19 response. He’s also been among the left’s fiercest opponents of conservatism and the America First movement.
Despite his large donations to Katko and Cuomo, Wells has never donated to a Trump campaign or a Trump-aligned cause, helping to earn him the nickname “Liberal Steve Wells” on the campaign trail.
Wells previously ran for Congress in 2016, and, like in 2022, his candidacy consisted largely of launching negative ads toward his opponent, now-Rep. Claudia Tenney. Tenney accused him of pay-to-play politics with Democrat Governor Cuomo, citing his massive campaign contributions and the fact that Wells’ companies had been given lucrative state contracts by the failed Cuomo Administration.
Wells was trounced by Tenney at the polls after taking his campaign into nearly half a million dollars of debt that’s still outstanding. In a 2016 debate, Wells refused to say if he’d support then-candidate Trump if he won the GOP nomination and he was endorsed by retiring anti-Trump Rep. Richard Hanna. Hanna announced in 2016 that he wouldn’t vote for Trump if he were to become the GOP Presidential nominee against Hillary Clinton.
“I defeated Steve Wells in the 2016 Congressional Primary based mostly on his left-leaning political positions and his pay-to-play politics with then Governor Cuomo,” Tenney, who has been endorsed by President Trump in her midterm re-election bid, said in a recent social media post blasting Wells. “Wells learned with corrupt Halbritter and spent millions smearing me which set up difficult general election races for me in 2018 and 2020,” Tenney went on to write in the post, noting that Wells continued to donate to Cuomo even after the 2016 election.
In his 2022 race, Wells has failed to connect with the GOP’s conservative grassroots base, siding with pro-abortion leftists in declaring that life doesn’t begin at conception. He’s declined to take a strong stance on election integrity issues and has been endorsed by former GOP Rep. John Faso, who blasted President Trump for not “accepting” reported 2020 election results in contested states. In addition to his endorsement, Faso has donated to Wells’ campaign.
Wells has been repeatedly called out by his opponent, Navy Submarine Veteran Brandon Williams, over his refusal to debate, something the GOP base says is due to his fear of being exposed as a political fraud.
Noting the stark difference in the two candidate’s campaigns, local media reported that while Williams has embraced the America First MAGA movement, Wells has tried to “duck Trump talk.”
“My opponent is a former Democrat who gave $33,000 through his company to Andrew Cuomo, even after he was disgraced,” Brandon Williams said this week on Steve Bannon’s War Room. “He gave zero dollars to Donald Trump and he’s spent a million dollars on TV saying he’s the conservative Republican. Nobody believes him and our campaign is surging,” Williams said.
“My opponent refused to debate me,” Williams said. “I don’t know who does that.”
“Because you’re the MAGA candidate,” Bannon told Williams. “He doesn’t want to get up there and be destroyed by the MAGA.”