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Upstate senator jumps into governor’s race: ‘Enough is enough’

Sen. John DeFrancisco, seen here on March 31,

Sen. John DeFrancisco, seen here on March 31, 2017, has thrown his hat in the ring to be the GOP's nominee for governor. Credit: AP / Hans Pennink

ALBANY -- Sen. John DeFrancisco became the third Republican to jump into the gubernatorial campaign, saying Tuesday “enough is enough” and that it was time for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to go.

“The rationale is we really need a change of direction,” DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) told reporters at the State Capitol during a break in Tuesday’s state Senate session. He cited New York’s steady outmigration (residents moving to other states) and dismal upstate economy and what he called Cuomo’s shift from backing a property-tax cap in his first year to calling for $1 billion in new taxes and fees in this year’s budget.

“My feeling is ‘enough is enough’ and somebody’s got to do it. I’ve got the fire in the belly and I’m going to go for it,” DeFrancisco said. He was slated to travel to his home town later for a 5 p.m. official campaign kickoff announcement.

He joined Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua) and former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra in the race for the GOP nomination.

As DeFrancisco was announcing his bid, nine upstate Republican county chairs announced they were endorsing Kolb. Led by Monroe County GOP Chairman Bill Reilich, the Republicans said Kolb “is an honest leader who will end the corruption and mismanagement plaguing Andrew Cuomo’s administration, and bring good-paying jobs back to our counties.”

Cuomo, 60, a Democrat, has said he intends to run for a third term. A state Democratic spokesman called Kolb and DeFrancisco “extreme conservatives” who were “anti-choice, anti-woman, anti-LBGTQ, anti-labor, anti-immigrant, anti-gun safety, anti-environment” supporters of President Donald Trump.

DeFrancisco, 71, is a lawyer by trade who was first elected to the state Senate in 1992. He’s an outspoken lawmaker known for his skills and pointed jabs in debating bills on the Senate floor. In 2015, he sought to succeed Dean Skelos of Rockville Centre as Senate majority leader but lost a close vote among his peers to Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport).

DeFrancisco has been harshly critical of some Cuomo development initiatives that have soured, especially two in his backyard: the currently-empty “film hub” and an empty factory that the state built (with $90 million in taxpayers’ money) only to see the would-be tenant (a light bulb manufacturer) back out of the deal just before the facility was finished.

He also said the ongoing corruption trial of Joseph Percoco, Cuomo’s former longtime closest aide, also makes the governor vulnerable. Percoco, who has pleaded not guilty, is accused of pocketing bribes in exchanging for rigging lucrative construction projects for Cuomo campaign donors.

The senator sought to brush aside fund-raising concerns, saying he doesn’t need to match the $30 million Cuomo already has amassed in his campaign account.

“I’m not the type of person that says ‘Look, he can’t be beaten. He’s not vulnerable. He’s just – let’s give him a life term. Let’s make him monarch of the state of New York,’” DeFrancisco said. “I think whatever the odds are, you’ve got to do what you think is right.”

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