Ed Cox addressing the state GOP on Jan. 19, 2017.

Ed Cox addressing the state GOP on Jan. 19, 2017. Credit: Newsday/William Perlman

ALBANY — The state Republican Committee on Monday unanimously elected Edward Cox to be its state chairman and Cox promised to turn the GOP’s November wins on Long Island into a statewide wave.

“This is the first time that Long Island has been represented by four Republicans in Congress since 1994,” said Cox, 76, of West Hampton. He said additional State Senate wins on Long Island would be “a first step in breaking the Democrats’ supermajority in the State Senate and bringing back political balance to New York. We need to build on these gains.”

Cox singled out Suffolk County GOP Chairman Jesse Garcia and Nassau County Republican Chairman Joe Cairo for their work over the last four years to win Republican seats in Congress, State Legislature and in Suffolk and Nassau counties.

Cox promised to replicate their strategies of focusing on reducing crime, attracting jobs and improving schools, rather than the culture war over issues such as abortion and gun control that have dominated national politics.

“We need a steady hand, someone who can hit the ground running,” Garcia told Newsday after the vote. “With stability and unity, we will continue to expand.”

But Republicans still have a difficult road in a state dominated more than 2:1 by Democratic voters. The Long Island surge in November wasn’t duplicated statewide as Democrats continue to hold every statewide elected post and supermajorities in the Senate and Assembly. Nationally, a projected Republican wave in November gained only a small majority in the House and left the U.S. Senate in Democratic control.

Cox had been state chairman for 10 years, before he was replaced by Nick Langworthy four years ago as some Republicans sought a change in leadership after Democrats took control of the Senate, the GOP’s last power base in state government. Langworthy, who was elected to Congress in November to represent part of Western New York, resigned Monday as party chairman and endorsed Cox.

Garcia and Cox each noted a goal for the GOP is to beat Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has been state’s junior U.S. senator since 2009. No clear challenger, however, has yet emerged for the 2024 race.

Cox was the party’s choice after several county Republican leaders started running for the post. But each eventually withdrew to clear the path for him after none of the younger Republicans gained a majority of county chairmen and chairwomen. On Monday, each of the challengers seconded Cox’s nomination.

Michael Henry was one of them. The party’s nominee for attorney general in the fall echoed Cox’s call to expand the party by courting Asian and Hispanic voters, upstate Republicans who feel ignored, voters not enrolled in a party and disillusioned Democrats. Henry said rifts within the party must be healed.

“We are bringing voters to the party … who are reflective of their districts,” Henry said. “What we have to do now is stop fighting each other.”

Cox is a finance lawyer and the son-in-law of former President Richard Nixon. He served in roles for former GOP presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and was the state Republican chairman for 10 years until he resigned in 2019. Cox was also a key figure in the election and administration of former Republican Gov. George Pataki, who served from 1996 to 2006 and was the last Republican elected to statewide office.

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