ROCHESTER — Assembly candidate Marjorie Byrnes and chairman of the Livingston County Conservative Party Jason McGuire defended themselves Wednesday against a potential conflict of interest regarding a $20,000 payment made to McGuire for political counsel.
In a radio interview with Bob Lonsberry of 1180 WHAM, Byrnes and McGuire said that they felt that the payment was in no way a conflict of interest in regards to the endorsement from the conservative party. They also noted that McGuire disclosed his involvement with the campaign and the payment at the first possible opportunity. Additionally McGuire submitted a letter of resignation as Regional Vice Chairman of the Western Region of New York, however State Chairman Michael Long did not accept the resignation and reaffirmed the endorsement of the Conservative Party.
While the Conservative Party seems to accept Byrnes’ and McGuire’s statements, Judith Hunter, Chair of the Livingston County Democratic Party, still has concerns.
Byrnes and McGuire both denied that the payment was related to the party endorsement, stating that the endorsement was given a month before Byrnes approached him about being a consultant for her campaign. McGuire told Lonsberry that he had approached party officials noting the potential conflict, but possible miscommunications prevented a more timely resolution to the issue. As previously reported, McGuire returned the money that he received from the Byrnes campaign. McGuire said returning the money was difficult considering his work on the campaign, but was the right thing to do to protect his integrity.
Byrnes was also asked by Lonsberry why the payment was so large. Byrnes responded that she had met multiple people about hiring them as consultants, and the cost for the required services would be in the range of $20,000. She felt that McGuire had necessary experience in Livingston County to handle her campaign properly. Byrnes argued that McGuire’s duties of “basically overseeing the whole thing,” including overseeing social media, photography, and the distribution of lawn signs, warranted the $20,000 payment.
McGuire furthered Byrnes’ statements when Lonsberry asked him to describe his role in the campaign.
“I view it as a campaign coordinator,” McGuire said. “It’s messaging. It’s strategy. It’s overseeing the responsibility of social media, mailers and any other campaign things that we have coming out. So, it’s overseeing all of those things and just the oversight of the campaign to make sure that it is going in the right direction.”
McGuire also offered insight as to why the Livingston County Conservative Party chose to endorse Byrnes over the incumbent Errigo.
“[Errigo’s] votes have been solid as far as what gets to the floor, I don’t dispute that, and I said that to the Conservative Party,” McGuire said. “But the conservative ratings don’t always measure, for example, what he is co-signing… and he is really the only Republican member that is signing on to some of these pieces. And when I’ve approached him about some of these things he says, ‘Oh I didn’t know’, or ‘That’s staff’. Well, one, two, three times — at some point you have to take responsibility for your bills.”
Both Byrnes and McGuire wanted to stress that Conservative Party has not and cannot be bought, but rather they want to do whatever necessary to hold incumbents accountable.