Mike Sapraicone speaks at the New York State Republican Nominating...

Mike Sapraicone speaks at the New York State Republican Nominating Convention in Binghamton on Thursday. The Long Islander appears to be the frontrunner to oppose Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in November's election.  Credit: Newsday/Keshia Clukey

BINGHAMTON — New York State Republican Party leaders on Thursday nominated retired NYPD Det. Mike Sapraicone to challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for her seat in Congress.

“Our nation needs to find its way back. To achieve that requires a tough cop on the beat,” said Sapraicone, 67, of Glen Head, at the party’s nominating convention. Sapraicone received 84% of the party’s weighted vote.

If elected to the Senate, Sapraicone said he will “end the migration crisis” and boost the economy.

Sapraicone, who serves as CEO of a private security company, last year had considered a run to unseat Rep. George Santos (R-Nassau/Queens).

The state Democratic Committee officially nominated Gillibrand (D-NY) as its candidate last week. She is running for a third full term, having served in the U.S. Senate since being appointed in 2009.

Sapraicone, who was born in Queens, has lived on Long Island for 32 years. In 1980, he began his career as an NYPD Transit police officer and was later promoted to detective. He retired in 2000. He attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice part-time for nearly a decade while working and raising a family, but did not earn a degree, he has said.

Nassau County Republican Party Chairman Joseph G. Cairo Jr., who nominated Sapraicone, described him as “the right guy for the job.”

“Mike’s a regular guy. He’s a guy who believes in our country. He’s a guy who has served our community as a policeman for more than 20 years, and he’s a man who gives back,” Cairo said. “He’s a man who will fight.”

Suffolk County Republican Committee Chairman Jesse Garcia seconded the nomination of Sapraicone.

“The one thing we need here in New York to finally make ourselves safe — because before we can be affordable we need to be safe — we need a cop to be in the U.S. Senate to fight for us, fight for New York.”

Cara Castronuova, a conservative journalist for Newsmax, former Gold Gloves boxing champion and celebrity fitness trainer on “The Biggest Loser” reality show, received approximately 8% of the weighted vote.

Businessman Josh Eisen, who co-chairs the George Pataki Foundation and ran for Congress in 2020, received nearly 8% of the weighted vote.

Candidates must receive more than 50% of the weighted vote to be considered the party’s designee. Another candidate can qualify to run in the primary if they have at least 25% of the weighted vote.

Eisen told reporters he still plans to challenge Sapraicone in the June primary, while Castronuova said she’s going to pray and think about her next move.

State Republican leaders, including Rep. Marc Molinaro, who represents New York’s 19th Congressional District, said they were hopeful for victory in this election cycle, while acknowledging the challenge Republicans face in the state.

“This is an uphill battle. The state is overwhelmingly Democrat,” Molinaro said. He cited issues with infrastructure, high taxation and out-migration as top issues. Other issues discussed at the event included crime and the influx of migrants.

The state has approximately 6.4 million registered Democrats and 2.9 million registered Republicans as of November, according to state Board of Elections data.

“What’s really important for us to do now is to keep this party strong and united,” Sapraicone told reporters after winning the nomination. “If we’re going to beat the Democrats come November, we need to be together.”

The state Conservative Party is expected to hold a vote on its nominee Saturday.

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