ALBANY — The leader of the state Assembly Republicans announced Tuesday he’s running for governor, becoming the first GOP candidate to jump into the race.
Assemb. Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua) said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, has failed to make New York affordable for students, seniors and businesses who are fleeing the state, and has failed to address public corruption.
“I think there’s been too much of a top-down approach in Albany,” Kolb said. “Over time, the governor has disrespected the role of the legislature. There’s questions about the connected having the inside track to projects funded around the state.”
Kolb also said Cuomo has misplaced spending priorities.
“He spent a quarter of a million dollars on [decorative] lights on bridges instead of fixing the subways,” Kolb said of the governor’s initiative to fit New York City bridges with colorful LED lights amid a summer of daily subway failures. “We need someone that really cares about the lives people are leading in the State of New York.”
Geoff Berman, executive director of the state Democratic Party, didn’t immediately return a call to comment.
While a number of Republicans have talked about challenging Cuomo, Kolb is the first to officially do so. Earlier this year, Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro formed a gubernatorial campaign account, but he hasn’t said he is definitely running.
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport), Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) and ex-hedge fund manager Harry Wilson are among those who have told others they are considering a campaign.
Kolb, 65, has served in the Assembly since 2000, representing a Finger Lakes district that includes Ontario County and part of Seneca County. He previously ran two small businesses in the Greater Rochester area. He has been Assembly minority leader since 2009, a position that holds little power, but affords a bully pulpit to push issues. Kolb steadily has advocated individual and business tax cuts, and more oversight over state contracts.
He’s been among the most vocal critics of Cuomo’s economic development initiatives, some of which are now part of a federal indictment that focuses on Joseph Percoco, a former close aide of the governor who is accused of essentially rigging bids for kickbacks and campaign contributions. Kolb said the tax-free Start Up NY initiative, too, has failed to produce a “return on investments.”
“It’s not your money, Gov. Cuomo. It’s our money,” Kolb said, “and that’s a distinction he doesn’t seem to understand.”
The Republican also criticized Cuomo for a lack of transparency, noting that the governor had convened a special commission to focus on government corruption, but it was tarred by internal complaints about Cuomo administration control. Eventually, the governor shuttered it.
Kolb said he didn’t believe President Donald Trump’s poor popularity ratings in New York will hurt him.
“My name is spelled K-O-L-B. It is not spelled T-R-U-M-P,” he said, calling himself not a hyperpartisan. “I have got a record and I have got a personality that people already know on both sides of the aisle. My record as a legislator and a collaborator transcends anything going on in Washington.”