It sounded like a sneak preview of GOP talking points for next year's governor's race when state Republican chairman Edward Cox last week bashed Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on ethics and the economy.
Cox was addressing more than 500 state-committee dinner guests at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan. He called Cuomo the "chief defender" of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) -- whom Cox said a "toothless" state ethics commission did not investigate in the wake of the scandal surrounding allegations of sexual harassment by ex-Assemb. Vito Lopez.
Later Wednesday evening, Cox said the state needs "real economic development -- not different tax breaks for different areas, not regional councils that are controlled by Albany, not these 'state of New York rising' type of advertisements."
Team Cuomo will of course dissect and dispute Cox's assertions in clashes to come.
When asked whether Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who's seeking re-election this year, might be the GOP's 2014 nominee, Cox replied, "We'll have to see how that works out . . . We've got good candidates who will get out there and challenge [Cuomo]." Buffalo developer Carl Paladino, who lost to Cuomo in 2010, said as he mingled among the guests that he won't try again.
The theme of the annual event, which raised $750,000 according to organizers, was GOP diversity, as Latino, African-American and Asian groups were represented.
But not all was copacetic in GOP country.
Cox's choice of honored guest, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), drew fire from regional Republicans such as Reps. Peter King (R-Seaford) and Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island), who didn't attend, citing Cruz's vote against a superstorm Sandy aid package.
While GOP mayoral candidates John Catsimatidis and George McDonald appeared, their rival Joseph Lhota did not. Cox said from the rostrum that Lhota had a "medical procedure" -- which Lhota aides later said was a minor mole removal earlier in the day. Lhota was quoted later as saying "I don't know why Ed Cox wasn't telling the truth" about his motive -- adding that he too had objected to Cruz based on the Sandy vote.
Cox said: "Ted Cruz made clear that his opposition was to the pork that was stuffed into the Sandy aid bill. He was for the aid part of it."
While demonstrators across the street protested the senator's opposing immigration and gun-control bills, Cruz spoke about expanding Republican appeal.