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Ed Cox likely to be re-elected NY Republican chairman, but divisions brew

New York Republican Party chairman Ed Cox on

New York Republican Party chairman Ed Cox on Jan. 6, 2015 in Albany. Credit: AP / Mike Groll

After a political trial balloon gained little apparent momentum, Ed Cox is confident he'll be re-elected as state Republican chairman when party leaders convene in Albany Monday.

But the party still faces an internal rift heading into 2016.

Cox, who took over as state GOP chairman from Nassau County's Joseph Mondello in 2009, faced possible competition from Tom Dadey of Syracuse, who a week earlier said he was "seriously" considering running for the leadership post. The Onondaga County GOP chairman picked up support from Carl Paladino, the party's 2006 gubernatorial candidate, but not many others spoke out.

Republican lawmakers and insiders said the buzz about Dadey's possible bid flared briefly, but "settled down."

"There's no appetite for a chairman's race right now," said one Republican who might have backed a challenger.

"Ed has had a pretty good record" considering the enrollment challenges Republicans face, said William F.B. O'Reilly, a Republican consultant who has done work for the state party committee.

The GOP went from holding just two congressional seats not that long ago to nine currently -- that includes Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who unseated incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop last year. The GOP also has most county executive seats and has maintained a slim majority in the State Senate. And some say another plus for Cox is that he doesn't meddle in county-level affairs.

But Republicans haven't won a statewide race since George Pataki won a third term as governor in 2002. "The statewide stuff is really tough because of registrations," O'Reilly contended. "But Ed's built a really good bench."

The Democratic enrollment advantage has grown steadily -- from 2.1 million in 2002 to 3 million currently. But some rank-and-file Republicans believe Cox hasn't been a good fundraiser and others still are upset that he initially backed Democrat-turned-Republican Steve Levy -- the former Suffolk County executive -- for governor in 2010.

And there is some upstate-downstate division lingering from gun-control laws and the ascension of Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) instead of Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse).

The immediate test for the party will be holding on to the State Senate in 2016 -- presidential-election years historically favor high Democratic turnout. Then, the focus will turn to 2018 to see if the party can break its losing streak in statewide contests.

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