Chris Gibson, the newly retired Army colonel who just returned home to Columbia County to run for Congress, appears to have the Republican party's endorsement in the race locked up.
But Patrick Ziegler, Gibson's only remaining challenger for the Republican and Conservative nominations, said he is staying in the race and may challenge Gibson in a Republican primary, or run on the Conservative line in the general election.
"I think we've done better than anyone anticipated. And we've been told to stay with it and not give up," said Ziegler, a tea party activist from Burnt Hills, in Saratoga County.
The Washington County Republican Committee, which voted 56 to 29 to endorse Gibson on Thursday evening, felt both Gibson and Ziegler are passionate, intelligent and articulate, said Washington County Republican Chairman John Patterson.
"But I think that they felt that the colonel's background and his life experience probably would serve him well in Congress," he said.
Gibson served in the Army for 24 years, most recently as commander of the 82nd Airborne Division team's monthlong humanitarian relief effort in Haiti after an earthquake.
Gibson has a doctorate in government from Cornell University, and previously taught American Politics at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Gibson's new endorsements from Republican committees in Washington and Columbia counties appear to provide him enough weighted votes to win the party's endorsement when Republican chairmen from the 10 counties in the 20th Congressional District meet to vote Wednesday in Albany.
"That's the way I do the math. I'm quite sure that's the way it will go when we meet on the 31st," said Essex County Republican Chairman Ronald Jackson.
"Oh he's got it," agreed Warren County Republican Chairman Michael Grasso, of Gibson.
The vote on Wednesday will be based on a series of votes by individual county committees in recent weeks.
The Otsego County Republican Committee and the executive committee of the Rensselaer County Republican Committee also have endorsed Gibson.
He has enough town and city endorsements to win the Saratoga County Republican endorsement, which is up for a formal vote on Saturday.
Ziegler, too, said Gibson appears to have enough weighted votes to clinch the overall 20th Congressional District endorsement, which would bring Gibson formal Republican party support and potential financial backing, but not necessarily the Republican nomination.
Ziegler, or other candidates, could circulate nominating petitions this summer to run against Gibson in a Republican primary.
Ziegler said he would decide whether to challenge Gibson in a primary after the Conservative Party makes its endorsement, which possibly could come in mid-to-late April.
"Right now, we owe it to our supporters and to those people who have backed me and to the counties that have endorsed me to work through the last few days of this process. It's only right," he said.
Republican committees in Warren and Essex counties endorsed Ziegler, who previously said he would support the Republican nominee in November.
Ziegler said Friday that he has since learned that the Conservative Party is asking candidates seeking their endorsement to sign a pledge to actively campaign for the general election regardless of who secures the Republican line.
Ziegler said he would be obligated to honor that pledge if he receives the Conservative Party endorsement.
"This is a new development," he said.
Ziegler's change on the issue does not sit well with Grasso, the Warren County Republican chairman.
"Let's put it this way: If he had said that at our meeting, I doubt whether he would have gotten our endorsement," Grasso said. "He can change his mind now but that won't bode well with the Republicans."
Gibson and Ziegler are seeking the Republican and Conservative nominations to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy, D-Glens Falls, in November.