GOP hush gives DiNapoli an edge in race for comptroller

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is shown in a

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is shown in a Feb. 17, 2014 file photo. (Credit: Charles Eckert)

Dan Janison

Melville. N.Y. Tuesday January 26, 2010. Daniel Janison, Dan Janison

Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday for 10

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Having narrowly won his first full term in 2010, state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli appears to start from a stronger political position as he prepares again to face voters in November.

Democrat DiNapoli, from Great Neck, got 52 percent of the 4.3 million votes cast for comptroller that year, defeating Republican Harry Wilson, a self-funding political newcomer.

But well-placed Republican sources say Wilson, an investment guru from Westchester, will forgo a rematch this year. Exactly who will come forward to challenge DiNapoli, who reported about $2.1 million in campaign cash on hand on Jan. 15, remains hazy less than two months before the state GOP convenes to designate candidates.

One source said "two or three people" are being discussed, but didn't elaborate.

Despite the momentarily quiet landscape, DiNapoli said Friday, "I expect a competitive race," as "there traditionally has been" for the powerful if often-overlooked post. "Every day I can focus on the job and not the politics is a good one," he said.

Shortly after former Gov. Eliot Spitzer lost a primary for New York City comptroller, there was chatter that he could try to challenge DiNapoli for the Democratic line this year. No such plan has materialized. Friends say Spitzer is out of politics.

At one point there was talk of Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino gunning for DiNapoli, but he's now running against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino's weak performance against Cuomo at the top of the GOP ticket four years ago is believed to have hindered Wilson and other Republicans down-ballot. But some have recently mentioned him for comptroller.

Last time, DiNapoli was running statewide for the first time, though as an incumbent, because the legislature appointed him in 2007 to succeed convicted Democrat Alan Hevesi.

The comptroller is sole trustee of the state's sprawling multibillion-dollar pension system. Still, polls show DiNapoli, like first-term Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, to be unknown to many New Yorkers. A Siena survey in January, for example, found 35 percent prepared to re-elect DiNapoli and 30 percent preferring "someone else."

This may leave Republican strategists a choice between trying to tag Schneiderman and DiNapoli with negatives -- or acting as if their seats were vacant and focusing on defining their own candidates positively.