Marc Molinaro, the Republican candidate for New York governor, during...

Marc Molinaro, the Republican candidate for New York governor, during a news conference in Manhattan on Aug. 28. Credit: Charles Eckert

ALBANY — Republican candidate Marc Molinaro on Tuesday said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is using President Donald Trump as a “boogeyman” so he can sidestep corruption issues in his own administration, including the upcoming sentencing of a former key aide.

Molinaro said Cuomo, the two-term Democrat, is campaigning as if he’s running against Trump in an effort to divert attention from, among other things, the scheduled sentencing of Joseph Percoco, Cuomo’s former top aide and campaign manager, who was convicted in a bribery scheme earlier this year. The governor wants voters to look the other way, the Republican said.

“He’s like some deranged Wizard of Oz,” Molinaro said, using an appellation he’s used previously for Cuomo. “'Pay no attention to the corruption in my administration. Look over there — it’s Donald Trump!' . . . The governor wants to talk about nothing more. He’s created his own boogeyman.”

Two hours later on Tuesday, Cuomo led a “unity” rally of New York Democrats in Manhattan where opposition to Trump was a main theme. Cuomo's campaign has sought to portray Molinaro as an ultraconservative extremist. 

 Asked about Molinaro's comments Tuesday, Cuomo spokeswoman Lis Smith said: "It’s no surprise why Trump 'mini-me' Marc Molinaro wants to avoid talking about Donald Trump, and how they share the same anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ, and pro-NRA policies."

Cuomo has pointed out he was never accused of wrongdoing in either the Percoco trial, which centered on bribes involving a Hudson Valley power plant and development projects in Syracuse, or the trial of Alain Kaloyeros, the former president of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, who was convicted in a bid-rigging trial involving state university construction projects.

Percoco is set to be sentenced Thursday in federal court.

Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive, is facing an uphill battle in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-1 ratio and in a contest where Cuomo already has raised significantly more money. And he’s also fighting Cuomo’s attempt to label him as a Trump clone in a state in which the Republican president isn’t popular.

“I’m a pragmatic” person, Molinaro said, pointing to his record as a county executive, state assemblyman and village mayor, adding that Cuomo is “trying to frighten people.”

Cynthia Nixon, the former "Sex and the City" star who challenged Cuomo in a Democratic primary last week, tried to use the Percoco and Kaloyeros convictions against the governor in her campaign, among other issues. Cuomo crushed Nixon, winning 65 percent of the vote. Given that result, Molinaro was asked if it showed voters don't care about corruption.

 "They do care," Molinaro said. "The question is: Will they vote on it?"

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