Spin Cycle

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Republicans roll into Rye, seeking the road to revival

New York State Republican Party Chairman Edward Cox

New York State Republican Party Chairman Edward Cox speaks to media August, 27, 2012, during the New York State Republican Party Delegation's breakfast at the Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort in Clearwater, FL. (Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara)

RYE BROOK, N.Y. -- New York Republicans open their convention here Wednesday free from the need to defend their statewide incumbents.

That's because they have none.

For seven years, the governor, comptroller, attorney general, and both U.S. senators have all been Democrats. Even the GOP's traditional grip on the State Senate majority has slipped, and depends nowadays on an unprecedented coalition with breakaway Democrats.

The incorrigibly upbeat Ed Cox -- now in his fifth full year as New York Republican chairman -- at least looks forward to a smoother gathering than the mosh pit of a 2010 convention where he first wielded the gavel.

That year Cox invited then-Democratic Suffolk Executive Steve Levy to switch parties and run for governor -- which Levy agreed to do before he failed to muster the 25 percent of the weighted delegate vote he required to make the primary ballot.

The 2010 convention's designee for governor, Rick Lazio, went on to lose a primary to insurgent Buffalo real estate operator Carl Paladino, who in turn helped lead the whole ticket to its November demise. The GOP's unsuccessful Senate candidates also reached the ballot as insurgents.

"We have a unified, well-qualified ticket this year -- and we have the advantage of focusing on the four statewide offices," counting lieutenant governor, said Anthony Casale, a onetime upstate assemblyman who became an adviser to Cox after the 2010 election.

"Every one of these races will be a serious race. We feel every confidence going into the convention we'll also come out of it unified for our candidates," Casale said this week.

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino will become the Republican nominee for governor on his home turf, in the same Hilton hotel where his opponent, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who keeps a residence in the county, was nominated four years ago.

Westchester occupies a best-of-times, worst-of-times status in the annals of Republican gubernatorial ambition. Its late former county executive, Andrew O'Rourke, lost a record landslide to then first-term Gov. Mario M. Cuomo in 1986. But two terms later, in 1994, a state senator from the county, George Pataki, unseated the first Gov. Cuomo.

By voter enrollment numbers, Nassau and Suffolk remain the state's biggest Republican counties, with 328,503 and 312,447 registrants respectively, according to the state Board of Elections. Next comes Erie, with 157,447, followed by Westchester, with 139,705, and Monroe, with 134,709.

Against that backdrop, this GOP ticket-in-formation might look a bit Westchester-heavy.

John Cahill, of Yonkers, running for attorney general against incumbent Democrat Eric T. Schneiderman, was Gov. Pataki's secretary and chief of staff, and before that, state environmental commissioner.

Both Cahill and Pataki are lawyers at Chadbourne & Parke in Manhattan. They also are co-founders of the Pataki-Cahill Group, which describes itself as "a specialized business development firm providing high-level strategic and tactical advice to companies in the energy, infrastructure, clean-tech, environmental and hard asset fields."

Pataki, who left office in 2006, was the last Republican elected statewide. Wednesday's convention will undoubtedly resound with the rhetoric of return -- a GOP story of how the state and its governance have suffered since the party went more or less into the wilderness.

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