Buffalo, NY - Carl Paladino says the "RINOs are coming." For those who don't know what that stands for: it's "Republican in Name Only." That's a direct slam to Anthony Gioia and Patrick Lee.
The two have been big fundraisers for the G.O.P. in the past, but they've raised eyebrows for deciding to host an event for Rep. Brian Higgins, a Buffalo Democrat.
Monday night, Paladino, a staunch conservative, and his supporters called the two out for their actions. They held signs close to Gioia's North Park home, outside the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society during the fundraiser.
"We're here to protest RINOs, and the whole idea and concept that people can put on a costume and call themselves a Republicans, when, for some reason or another, they will support anyone that's got a pulse," said Paladino.
"They're all out for their behind the scenes power grabs, power gains, and I can't support that," said one of the protesters.
Some of those attending the fundraiser did not think crossing party lines was a huge deal. Several registered Republicans joined Gioia and Lee fundraising for Higgins.
"It's about working across the aisle because it's all about WNY, is it not? And, when we think about it, we're all aligned in our goal. Whether it be Carl or us. All of us are aligned. We want the best thing for WNY, and this was a great venue to have that happen as a catalyst for change," said Stuart Angert.
Many in attendance know Paladino.
"I talked to him. He wasn't really protesting. I went over, I put my arm around him, I know him. I said we're all about Buffalo, NY, are we not? All about WNY. He said, yes. I said that's why we're here," said Angert.
Brian Higgins' office did not return our request for comment, but the Erie County Democratic Party Chair says the bipartisan support speaks to Higgins' accomplishments.
"I think Carl has his right to his own opinion and certainly he likes to express that and he showed it tonight," said Jeremy Zellner.
And, as usual, Paladino did not shy away from getting his message across.
"The old establishment RINOs are being told that they're becoming irrelevant, and it's time that others took charge. People with real values and real substance and led us in a different direction," said Paladino.
Paladino has said he is ready to run for governor again next year if the Republicans do not field a candidate he agrees with and that he could try running as the Conservative Party candidate.