Jack Davis (industrialist)

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Jack Davis
Born1933 (age 86–87)[1]
CitizenshipUnited States
EducationIndustrial engineer
Alma materUniversity of Buffalo, 1955
Years active47 in business
7 in politics
OrganizationI Squared R Element Company
Net worth$18.2-$83.4 million[2]
Political partyIndependent politician
Tea Party
(registered Republican)
MovementThird party
Opponent(s)Tom Reynolds (R) (2004, 2006)
Jon Powers (D), Alice Kryzan (D) (2008)
Jane Corwin (R), Kathy Hochul (D), Ian Murphy (G) (2011)
WebsiteJack Davis for Congress

John "Jack" Davis (born 1933) is an American industrialist and perennial candidate from Newstead, New York.[5] Davis ran four times for New York's 26th congressional district seat in the U.S. House of Representatives between 2004 and 2011, three times as a Democrat (twice as the general election candidate against incumbent Tom Reynolds and a third time in a three-way primary) and once as an independent.[6]

Davis's political campaigns are primarily motivated by his concern that the country is being destroyed by U.S. free trade policies, which he says have led to the outsourcing of jobs to foreign countries and the decline of manufacturing in the United States.[3][7] Noted for his party-switching, Davis has said that had he won the 2011 election, he would have caucused in the House with the Republican and Tea Party caucuses.[8]

A lifelong Republican, Davis switched to the Democrats after being kicked out of a fundraiser headlined by Dick Cheney in 2003 when he tried to ask Cheney questions about free trade policies.[9] He then ran for the U.S. Congress seat in his home district, NY-26, in 2004, 2006 and 2008 as a self-funded candidate, pouring in millions of his own funds and coming close to beating the incumbent Republican Thomas Reynolds in 2006. In the 2008 election, however, he came in third out of three in the Democratic primary.[9] He switched his affiliation back to Republican with the election of fellow wealthy industrialist Chris Lee, becoming an ally and supporter of Lee.[7] After Lee's abrupt departure from Congress in February 2011, Davis tried and failed to get the Republican nomination to replace Lee and decided to run as an independent on a newly created Tea Party line.[1][7]

Davis is the owner of I Squared R Element Company, a silicon carbide heating elements company that he founded in 1964.[9] He is also known for filing a successful lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission in 2006, claiming that the so-called "millionaire's amendment" to McCain-Feingold Act was unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court, with Justice Alito writing for the 5–4 majority, sided with Davis, striking down the millionaire's amendment as violating the First Amendment to the United States Constitution for fundamentally restricting the right of a self-financing candidate to spend his or her own money in a preferred way.[10]

Early years and education and business career[edit]

Davis grew up in Western, New York and attended Amherst Central High School.[11] In 1955, Davis graduated from the University of Buffalo with a bachelor's degree in engineering.[11] Davis would later fund the construction of UB's Davis Hall, which was named after him.[12] Following graduation, Davis served in the Marine Corps and in the U.S. Coast Guard as a lieutenant.[11]

He began work as an engineer in 1958, first at General Motors as a maintenance engineer, then at The Carborundum Company as a supervising sales engineer.

In 1964, Davis started his silicon carbide heating element manufacturing business, I Squared R Element, out of his garage[11] and now employs 75 people in Akron, New York.[3][13] He has touted the fact that he has never outsourced any jobs.[3] According to 2011 financial disclosure statements, Davis' net worth is between $18.2 million and $83.4 million (about half that of his opponent Jane Corwin).[2]

Party affiliations[edit]

Davis was a self-described "Goldwater Republican" for 50 years. In late 2003, he attended a Republican fundraiser in Buffalo, featuring Vice President Dick Cheney. Davis insisted on talking to Cheney about U.S. free trade policies, which Cheney's staff refused to allow, ordering Davis to be ejected from the fundraiser.[8] Davis then quit the Republican party.[8] He later became a Democrat (2003), then founded the Save Jobs Party (2004–05), then rejoined the Republican Party (2008), and in March 2011 created the Tea Party ballot line by obtaining the required number of signatures.

Political career[edit]

In 2004 and 2006 Davis ran as a Democrat in the general elections facing no primary challengers. He lost both times to incumbent Republican Tom Reynolds, described by the New York Times as one of the most powerful Republicans in Congress.[11] In the 2008 race, Davis finished third place in a three-way Democratic primary to Alice Kryzan. In the ongoing 2011 election, Davis, who has been a registered Republican since 2008, is now s running on the "Tea Party" line. He has said he is running again because of his concern that the country is being destroyed.[7]

A major theme of Davis' campaigns is that too many U.S. manufacturing jobs have been outsourced to foreign countries, with 53,000 manufacturing plants closed in the past 30 years and 17 million Americans presently unemployed.[3] He believes U.S. free trade policies and agreements have caused the job loss and the great recession.[3] He says the free trade policies have been pushed by multinational corporations and big box stores such as Walmart who effectively have purchased the White House and the U.S. Congress.[3] Davis says he is free of those influences, and wants to go to Washington to save American jobs, farms and industries.[3]

2004 Congressional campaign[edit]

In 2004, Davis officially entered politics, running as a Democrat for the U.S. Congress from the 26th District of New York against incumbent Republican Representative Tom Reynolds, who was considered unbeatable. Davis doubled his original financial commitment to the race, pouring a total of $1.2 million of personal money into his campaign. Reynolds was forced to begin running campaign ads for the first time since his election in 1998.

On election day, Reynolds won, 56 percent to 44 percent; in contrast, he won the 2002 election 75 percent to 25 percent against the Democratic challenger. Many cite the amount spent by Davis as compared to Reynolds' prior challenger as the primary factor for the change. Some observers attributed the narrowed margin of victory to an undercurrent of resentment in the working-class areas of the 26th district over economic decline and a lack of manufacturing sector jobs. Others attributed the margin to the politics of the specific candidates; Reynolds' politics more closely resembling big-government neo-conservatism while Davis' more closely resembles the limited-government libertarian conservatism of Goldwater, the type of conservative thought more widely adhered to in Upstate New York.

After the election, Davis was fined for a violation of campaign finance reporting laws. Davis had used his non-profit "Save Jobs" organization to funnel money into his political efforts, failing to comply with political disclosure requirements of both the federal government and New York State.

Save Jobs Party[edit]

Following his defeat in 2004, Davis continued his political activism by forming the Save Jobs Party to further his goals of repealing free-trade agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Davis believed that free-trade allowed low-wage nations, such as China to compete unfairly with American-produced manufactured goods and agricultural crops. Davis believed that this would be a popular idea in his native Upstate New York, which contained many struggling farms and factories. Although Republicans accused him of using the party merely as a springboard for a 2006 rematch against Reynolds, Davis sponsored more than a dozen candidates for public office in races across Western New York.

However, the Save Jobs party soon ran into trouble with state and federal officials. In one incident, an Erie County legislator sought an FBI investigation over last-minute automated phone calls (robocalls] that had been made from Davis's campaign headquarters.[14] In early 2006, Davis' state PAC was sued in State Supreme Court for improper filing of financial disclosures.[15][16] Davis abandoned the fledgling party.

2006 Congressional campaign[edit]

Davis ran against Reynolds as the candidate of the Democratic, Working Families and Independence Parties in 2006. Davis received the Democratic nomination since no other Democrat chose to run in the September 12, 2006 primary. He appeared on three ballot lines and votes from all three nominating parties counted towards Davis' total under New York's electoral fusion rule.[17] As in 2004, Reynolds won, but by a much narrower margin.

With the Mark Foley scandal in full swing, pundits re-evaluated the odds of Davis winning against Reynolds. It was widely reported that Reynolds had knowledge of earlier e-mails between Foley and a page, although he was unaware of more explicit instant messages reported by ABC News.[18]

Davis led Reynolds in several polls taken during October 2006, but an early November poll showed him trailing 46 to 50.[19] He lost by a "hair's breadth", according to The Washington Post.[9]

2008 Congressional campaign[edit]

After Reynolds announced his retirement from Congress in 2008, Davis ran a third time for the seat. He began as the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic Party nomination[9] but he faced stiff competition from Iraq War veteran and teacher Jon Powers. Democrats viewed Powers as their strongest candidate, and blamed Davis' attack ads for taking him out in the primary.[9] Powers finished second, Davis third, with little-known environmental attorney Alice Kryzan winning the primary. She lost the general election to Republican Christopher J. Lee 55–40 percent.[9]

Davis v. Federal Election Commission[edit]

Davis filed a successful lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission between his 2006 and 2008 runs for office, claiming that the so-called "millionaires amendment" to the McCain-Feingold Act election reform law was unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court, with Justice Alito writing for the 5–4 majority, struck down parts of the act as violating the First Amendment for fundamentally restricting the right of a self-financing candidate to spend his or her own money in a preferred way.[10]

2011 Congressional campaign[edit]

Davis changed his political affiliation from Democratic back to Republican in 2010, after developing a favorable working relationship with Chris Lee over the course of Lee's time in office.[7][20] He expressed interest in the special election to replace Lee, who resigned in February 2011.[21] Davis met with the Republican chairs regarding a possible run, but according to Davis, the meeting "didn't go great". The Party was dissatisfied with his brief time in the Democratic Party and his willingness to run on a third-party line if he didn't get the Republican nomination, according to the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal.[22] A GOP county chair told The Buffalo News that Davis had disqualified himself by expressing views that were contrary to typical Republican positions.[23] The Republican nomination went to Jane Corwin.[4] Davis also had discussions with Erie County Conservative Party chairman Ralph Lorigo regarding a potential run on that line,[24] but after Corwin received Republican nomination, the other two parties put her on their ballot lines.

Finally, Davis briefly, but unsuccessfully courted the Democrats for their nomination, then decided to run on a newly created independent line, under the name "Tea," sending out paid campaign workers to collect the 3,500 required signatures for a ballot listing (Davis's campaign workers collected over 12,000 signatures in total).[1] He received the endorsement of the Tea Party Coalition of New York, but his Republican opponent Corwin got the endorsements of TEA New York[25] and the Tea Party Express. Davis has said that if elected, he will caucus with the Republicans and Tea Party caucus because his opinions and positions align more closely with those groups than with the Democrats.[8] The Tea Party Coalition is an organization run by Libertarian Party activists James Ostrowski and Allen Coniglio, who use the name "Tea Party" for the ballot line on which they run their independent candidates; Ostrowski and Coniglio previously had used the line for David DiPietro in a state senate race and Janice Volk in a congressional special election in another district prior to Davis using the line.

Political positions[edit]

Davis' ideology is "too inconsistent to be readily categorized", according to the Washington Post.[9] When asked about the issue of illegal immigration during his interview for the Republican endorsement in 2011, Davis reportedly shocked local Republican leaders by suggesting that illegal immigrants could be deported and unemployed black youth bussed from the cities to pick the crops.[23] Davis' spokesperson said the comments could be viewed as politically and racially incorrect; "but when you have African American people in Buffalo who do not have jobs and are out of work, why are you bringing people into this country illegally to take jobs?" he asked.[23]

Davis' main issue is his opposition to free-trade policies and agreements which he believes have allowed low-wage nations, such as the People's Republic of China, to compete unfairly with American-produced manufactured goods and agricultural crops.

Davis been described as favoring gun rights,[9] and has said that his position on the Second Amendment rights is similar to that of other members of the Tea Party movement.[26] He has given inconsistent answers on the issue of abortion rights.[9] Davis opposes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act[27] and also opposed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.


The special election was initially thought to be a "certain victory" for the Republican candidate, but became "fiercely competitive", according to The New York Times, because of a U.S. House Republican plan to privatize Medicare.[28] The Times also cited the third party candidacy of Davis as a factor which is "siphoning support" from Corwin.[28]

A late April poll by Sienna College had Corwin in the lead with 36 percent, followed by Hochul with 31 percent and Davis with 23 percent of the vote.[29] An early May poll by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Institute showed Hochul at 35 percent, Corwin at 31 percent and Davis at 24 percent.[30] An unusual number of voters had a negative opinion of each candidate, according to the pollster: Hochul, 42 percent for Corwin and 43 percent for Davis.[31]

National media attention was given to a 15-second video clip that appeared to show Corwin's Assembly chief of staff, Michael Mallia, repeatedly asking Davis why he had skipped a campaign debate, followed by Mallia yelping as Davis apparently shoved him or flapped at the camera.[6][32] The video clip was circulated by local and national Republican organizations[33] and prompted bipartisan criticism of both Davis and Mallia.[6] Requests to see a longer tape and a tape made by second camera were refused by Corwin and her campaign.[32][34] In response to Davis' complaints that he had been harassed, Corwin said, "I've had cameras on me for two months now, and I've never hit anybody ... and I think that's the difference is how you handle a situation like that."[33]

The Tea Party Express and TEA New York which endorsed Corwin traveled to Rochester and Buffalo to hold events where they criticized Davis' use of the Tea Party name.[35][36] After the election, TEA New York blamed Davis for Hochul's win.[37]

Roll Call reported that Davis had promised to spend as much as $3 million of his own funds and that Corwin had invested nearly $2.5 million of her own funds in the campaign as of May 13.[38] Roll Call also said that outside funds coming from both liberal and conservative groups had "turned the Buffalo and Rochester airwaves into a steady stream of campaign ads."[38] Davis, in contrast to his opponents, received no assistance from outside funds.[39]

Electoral history[edit]

Congressional Vote – November 2, 2004 – 26th Congressional District[40]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Thomas M. Reynolds 137,425 49
Conservative Thomas M. Reynolds 10,672 4
Independence Thomas M. Reynolds 9,369 3
Democratic Jack Davis 116,484 41
Working Families Jack Davis 9,129 3
Total votes 283,079 100
Congressional Vote – November 7, 2006 – 26th Congressional District[41]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Thomas M. Reynolds 94,157 45
Conservative Thomas M. Reynolds 15,100 7
Democratic Jack Davis 85,145 41
Independence Jack Davis 9,187 4
Working Families Jack Davis 6,582 3
Total votes 210,171 100
Primary election September 9, 2008[42]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Alice Kryzan 9,792 41
Democratic Jonathan P. Powers 8,500 36
Democratic Jack Davis 5,602 23
Total votes 23,894 100
Special election May 24, 2011,
U.S. House of Representatives, NY-26[43]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Kathy Hochul 47,519 42.58
Working Families Kathy Hochul 5,194 4.65
Republican Jane Corwin 35,721 32.01
Conservative Jane Corwin 9,090 8.15
Independence Jane Corwin 2,376 2.13
Tea Party Jack Davis 10,029 8.99
Green Ian Murphy 1,177 1.05
Total votes 111,597 100.0
Turnout   25

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Robert J. McCarthy (February 23, 2011). "Spurned by 2 parties, Davis aims for 3rd". The Buffalo News. Retrieved May 19, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c Jerry Zremski (April 30, 2011). "Republican Corwin tops Davis in amassing wealth". The Buffalo News.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "About Jack | Jack Davis for Congress". JackDavis.org. Archived from the original on May 26, 2011. Retrieved May 20, 2011.
  4. ^ a b Robert J. McCarthy (February 22, 2011). "Corwin gets GOP nod to run for Lee's seat". The Buffalo News.
  5. ^ Fairbanks, Phil (May 22, 2011). Sprawling district spans voter fears Archived May 27, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. The Buffalo News. Retrieved 2011-05-22.
  6. ^ a b c Jerry Zremski (May 14, 2011). "Republicans join attack on Corwin aide, In dustup over unflattering video, Davis finds he has unlikely allies". The Buffalo News.
  7. ^ a b c d e Casey J. Bortnick (February 22, 2011). "Jack Davis Looking for a Party to Back Him in NY's 26th District". YNN, Your News Now. Batavia, NY. Retrieved May 19, 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d Robert J. McCarthy (April 29, 2011). "Davis would caucus with GOP if he wins congressional race". Retrieved May 19, 2011.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Rachel Weiner (May 12, 2011). "Who is Jack Davis". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 19, 2011.
  10. ^ a b "Davis v. Federal Election Commission – Case summary". OYEZ, U.S. Supreme Court Media. Retrieved May 20, 2011.
  11. ^ a b c d e Hernandez, Raymond (October 16, 2006). "A Maverick Who Worries Both Parties". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  12. ^ "UB Engineering Building to be Named for Jack and Barbara Davis". the University at Buffalo. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  13. ^ "Jack on the Issues | Jack Davis for Congress". JackDavis.org. Archived from the original on June 12, 2011. Retrieved May 20, 2011.
  14. ^ WGRZ-TV investigation Archived March 12, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ "Federal Election Commission". Eqs.sdrdc.com. Archived from the original on July 24, 2011. Retrieved May 20, 2011.
  16. ^ "20070516.MURs". Fec.gov. Archived from the original on October 19, 2011. Retrieved May 20, 2011.
  17. ^ Buffalo News editorial Archived May 26, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ "Roll Call magazine excerpt". Rollcall.com. October 5, 2006. Archived from the original on February 4, 2012. Retrieved May 20, 2011.
  19. ^ Mark Blumenthal and Charles Franklin (November 6, 2006). "Election Scorecard: Where the midterm elections stand today". Salon.
  20. ^ Zremski, Jerry (February 14, 2011). Loss of Lee will be felt throughout the district Archived February 17, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. The Buffalo News. Retrieved May 19, 2011.
  21. ^ Cruz, Tricia (February 13, 2011). Republicans search for Lee's successor Archived February 15, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. WIVB-TV. Retrieved May 19, 2011.
  22. ^ Wolcott, Bill (February 21, 2011). Eight Republicans line up for Lee's seat. Lockport Union-Sun & Journal. Retrieved May 19, 2011.
  23. ^ a b c Jerry Zremski (March 15, 2011). "Davis' comments shock GOP leaders". The Buffalo News. Retrieved May 19, 2011.
  24. ^ Rich Newberg Posted by: Eli George (October 11, 2010). "Hopefuls are lining up to replace Lee". WIVB.com. Archived from the original on July 18, 2011. Retrieved May 19, 2011.
  25. ^ Vic Baker (April 7, 2011). "Tea Party Coalition backs Jack Davis". WIVB.com. Buffalo, NY.
  26. ^ David Weigel (May 18, 2011). "NY-26: Jack Davis, Get Your Gun". Salon. Retrieved May 19, 2011.
  27. ^ PRESS RELEASE: JACK DAVIS ENDORSES HEALTHCARE COMPACT Archived May 18, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Press release (May 12, 2011). Retrieved 2011-05-23.
  28. ^ a b Raymond Hernandez (May 16, 2011). "Hoping Third Party Is Charm, Industrialist Jolts House Race". The New York Times.
  29. ^ Rachel Weiner (April 29, 2011). "Poll: A real race in New York special election". The Washington Post.
  30. ^ Alex Isenstadt (May 9, 2011). "Dems take fresh aim at N.Y.-26". Politico.
  31. ^ "How Can Campaign Ads Affect Polling in Race?". WBEN.com. May 18, 2011. Archived from the original on July 23, 2011.
  32. ^ a b Sean J. Miller (May 15, 2011). "Corwin aide stris up controversy in NY special election". The Hill.
  33. ^ a b Jessica Taylor (May 13, 2011). "Tracker Tape Controversy Continues in NY-26". National Journal. Archived from the original on December 28, 2011.
  34. ^ Rich Newberg (May 17, 2011). "Corwin dodges reporters' questions". WIVB.com. Archived from the original on May 21, 2011.
  35. ^ "TEA Party Express Comes to Buffalo to Endorse Corwin, Clear Air on Davis". WBEN. Buffalo. May 17, 2011. Archived from the original on July 23, 2011.
  36. ^ Meaghan M. McDermott (May 16, 2011). "Express backs Jane Corwin in 26th District". Democrat and Chronicle. Rochester, NY.
  37. ^ TEANY press release (May 25, 2011). Thank you, Jack Davis and company... Archived March 14, 2016, at the Wayback Machine Tea New York. Retrieved 2011-05-27.
  38. ^ a b Steve Peoples (May 13, 2011). "Corwin's Campaign Loans Surpass $2.4 Million in N.Y." Roll Call.
  39. ^ Vielkind, Jimmy (May 23, 2011). Outside spending skews toward Corwin Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. Capital Confidential (Albany Times Union). Retrieved 2011-05-23.
  40. ^ "Congressional Vote 26th District" (PDF). NYS Board of Elections. November 2, 2004. Retrieved May 19, 2011.
  41. ^ "Congressional Vote District" (PDF). NYS Board of Elections. November 7, 2006. Retrieved May 19, 2011.
  42. ^ "Primary Vote" (PDF). NYS Board of Elections. September 9, 2008. Retrieved May 19, 2011.
  43. ^ Official Election Results from the New York State Board of Elections

External links[edit]