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New Monroe County GOP chair wants to take cues from the party’s grassroots

Monroe County Republican Committee Chair Patrick Reilly
The Monroe County Republican Committee elected Patrick Reilly, who has served as Brighton GOP leader for more than two years, as its new chair.

Brighton GOP leader Patrick Reilly is the new chair of the Monroe County Republican Committee.

Reilly was elected during the committee’s annual convention Saturday, which party officials said had the largest turnout since 1990, with 370 members there. His campaign emphasized restructuring the committee so it doesn’t have top-down leadership but instead takes its cues from the party’s grassroots.

“There are a lot of volunteers that want to get involved,” Reilly said. “There's a lot of excitement in the grassroots, people who just are now motivated by civic engagement, but we just really weren't structured to bring them in and give them something useful to do.”

He envisions local committee members serving as “chief political officers” for their neighborhoods. They are better positioned to listen to their neighbors’ concerns, he said, and they can bring that input to party officials, who in turn can use it to respond to issues and shape messaging.

“That's really what our purpose is, is to connect with those voters, share what our principles are but also hear their feedback on what's important to them, and then use that to elect people who will focus on just providing good government service,” Reilly said.

Reilly replaces longtime Republican operative Larry Staub, who in late August was tapped by outgoing chair and Chili Supervisor David Dunning to serve as interim chair of the committee. Staub ran for the post, but he and Independence Party cofounder Laureen Oliver lost to Reilly.

Reilly received 55% of the weighted vote, while Staub pulled in 40% and Oliver got 5%.

Reilly, a telecommunications executive, assumes the office about six weeks before the November elections, right when campaign season is reaching its peak. It’s a high-stakes year for the party, which has candidates running in over 100 town seats. It’s also trying to hold on to its tenuous control of the County Legislature and regain control of the county executive’s seat, despite a years-long decline in enrollment.

Incumbent County Executive Adam Bello, a Democrat, faces a challenge from Republican Mark Assini in that top-of-the-ticket race.

Assini said he appreciates all that Staub has done for the party and that he would have been a good leader. But he also has faith in Reilly, who he describes as personable and a hands-on leader who will listen and won’t exclude people.

And like Reilly, he believes that the high turnout for the convention — as well as the energy and enthusiasm of the attendees — is a good sign as Election Day approaches.

“I think that for this election, that's going to bode very well. I think we have a very high enthusiasm,” Assini said. “I think we have very high enthusiasm among Republicans right now and certainly in our committee.”

Jeremy Moule is a deputy editor with WXXI News. He also covers Monroe County.