ALBANY — New York Republicans on Tuesday said they started their 2018 campaign to defeat what they insist is a vulnerable Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo with a gaggle of potential past candidates, including a wealthy former financier and a conservative senator.
But the group also may include an expected entry by a daughter of Cuban and Greek immigrants.
State Republican Chairman Ed Cox emphasized that the woman, Assemb. Nicole Malliotakis, 37, is focused solely on her steep, uphill race for New York City mayor against Democratic incumbent Bill de Blasio.
But when asked about whether he would like her to run for governor if she loses the mayor’s race, Cox paused and after a couple starts and stops, said:
“I could see — first of all — great candidate for mayor,” Cox told reporters after the party’s meeting of political leaders from across the state. “With the right circumstances, she could be elected mayor. If that were not going to happen, I could see her being a very effective candidate for other offices.”
He said he has not talked to her about a run beyond the mayor’s race.
At the meeting in suburban Albany, Cox was elected to a fifth two-year term as party chairman.
Cox said Republicans can win the governor’s office in a state dominated 2:1 by Democratic voters because 2014 GOP nominee Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive, ran strongly upstate and in New York City’s suburbs. But Astorino was trounced by Cuomo in New York City.
Malliotakis, who represents State Island and part of Brooklyn in the Assembly, has been campaigning citywide since April and gaining name recognition in the city, which has 3 million Democrats and 522,000 Republicans. De Blasio led Malliotakis 65 percent to 18 percent in an NBC 4 New York-Marist Poll released Tuesday.
Other potential GOP candidates to take on Cuomo are Sen. John DeFrancisco of Syracuse; Assembly Republican leader Brian Kolb of Canandaigua; former financier Harry Wilson of Weschester, who narrowly lost the 2010 race for state comptroller and served in roles for the Democratic Obama administration; Astorino; Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan of East Northport; and Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro of upstate Red Hook.
Cuomo’s campaign wouldn’t comment on Malliotakis. Cuomo campaign spokesman Basil Smikle said voters shouldn’t listen to “Donald Trump’s top cheerleader in the state.”