RYE BROOK -- New York's Republican Party opened its convention Wednesday with the theme, "It's Our Time," after four years of what it called "fiction and fraud" under a state government led by Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
As expected, the state Republican committee nominated John Cahill of Yonkers for attorney general and Onondaga County Comptroller Robert Antonacci of Syracuse for state comptroller. Cahill will take on Democratic Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of Manhattan and Antonacci will challenge Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli of Great Neck Plaza.
Thursday, the party will nominate Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino for governor and his choice for lieutenant governor, Chemung County Sheriff Chris Moss of Elmira.
Republicans rallied around a platform that seeks a decidedly moderate tone compared with the past two conventions, in which statewide races were led by conservatives. There was no mention of abortion or other conservative issues that split the party ideologically. It was a return to the tone used by former Gov. George Pataki to win three terms in the state long dominated by Democratic voters.
"When you reach out, not only do you have a better chance of winning, but when you do win, you can put together the coalition, the ideas, the solutions the people want," said Pataki, who in 2002 was the last Republican to win a statewide seat. "That's what our ticket today is looking to do."
It will be an uphill battle. The state is dominated by Democratic voters by a 2-1 ratio over Republicans. Polls show most voters also support Democratic social issues, from abortion rights to freer immigration. And Cuomo, at the top of the ticket, remains high in statewide polls.
But Republicans Wednesday said they will be disciplined. They will hammer a platform led by the need for economic revival and a call to end years of corruption under Democratic control.
"It seems as though they are trying to sound like a different Republican Party," said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, who attended the opening day of the convention Wednesday. "It's a different tone and it seems directed at moderate, suburban women, which, in a close race, could be decisive."
"Long Island is critically important," said state Republican chairman Ed Cox in an interview. "The base is still Republican and Republican candidates will be there." He said he believes this is a Republican year, noting the midterm congressional elections are expected to bring out the faithful, in part to make a statement against Democratic President Barack Obama.
Republicans say they have solved the conflict within their party, which was led by more conservative candidates in the past two state elections.
"I'm supportive of our ticket," said Carl Paladino, the Buffalo businessman who headed the party ticket four years ago in a losing effort against Cuomo. "I've agreed to defer my angst over RINOS (Republicans in Name Only) until after our ticket is elected and we defeat the tyrant Cuomo."
Cahill, 55, Pataki's former top aide, tried to underscore the Republicans' attempt to broaden their appeal. He said that although he's an anti-abortion Catholic, he will enforce all laws, including corruption laws, which he said "silent Schneiderman" failed to do in the Democratic-dominated government.
Antonacci stressed his background as a certified public account and lawyer as well as county comptroller, which he said makes him the most qualified comptroller candidate.Cahill also cited Cuomo's Moreland Commission, which was charged with ferreting out corruption in Albany. "The fact is, we wouldn't need a Moreland Commission if we had a real attorney general," Cahill said. "The root cause of corruption are criminals who disguise themselves as public servants. . . . As attorney general, I will restore the public's trust."
Antonacci faulted DiNapoli for his approval of elements of a $103,000 secret settlement using public money crafted by Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to settle sexual harassment claims against former Assemb. Vito Lopez (D-Brooklyn). The comptroller's office and attorney general's office -- both headed by Democrats -- provided routine approval of the settlement, which was identified as legal fees. DiNapoli and Schneiderman denied they knew details of the 2013 settlement.
"Being a lawyer in this job also means something," Antonacci, 49, said in his acceptance speech. "With my background, I would have understood the difference between legal fees and a contract settlement. . . . That would never have happened on my watch."