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GOP delegates see opportunity to nominate statewide winners

Republican Marc Molinaro announces his intention to run

Republican Marc Molinaro announces his intention to run against Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the Governor of New York State on Monday, April 2, 2018, during a news conference in Albany, N.Y. Molinaro vowed Monday to change what he called Albany's climate of corruption and behind-closed-doors deals as he formally kicked off his campaign for New York governor. (Skip Dickstein/The Albany Times Union via AP) Credit: AP / Skip Dickstein

ALBANY — New York Republicans will convene Wednesday and Thursday in Manhattan to nominate Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro as their candidate for governor in November, though their best chance of winning a statewide election — which would be their first in 12 years — may come from farther down the ticket.

The party plans to hammer its message of job growth, lower taxes and protecting New Yorkers from crime and terrorism. The GOP also will take aim at two-term Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, while trying to skirt social issues such as abortion rights that appeal to the state’s heavily Democratic electorate.

Cuomo’s “liberal lunacy is destroying our state,” Ed Cox, the state Republican Chairman, said in a statement.

On Wednesday, the Republicans plan to nominate Molinaro, who is 42 and has held elective offices since he was 18, when he won a seat on the Tivoli Board of Trustees. The party also will also nominate former Rye Councilwoman Julie Kilian for lieutenant governor. Molinaro chose her after she lost a special election in April to the state Senate in Westchester County, which was won by former Assemb. Shelley Mayer.

On Thursday, delegates will nominate candidates for attorney general and state comptroller. Political analysts say these offices likely will give the party its best shots at winning statewide seats. The Republicans haven’t held the attorney general’s post since 1998 and the comptroller’s job since 1993.

But the party will have to walk a fine line on a major issue: President Donald Trump. In an April poll by the Siena College Research Institute, 57 percent of Republican voters statewide said they thought Trump was doing a good or excellent job, while 88 percent of Democrats and a plurality of independent voters — 42 percent — said they believed Trump was doing a poor or fair job.

Cuomo’s campaign has called Molinaro “mini-Trump,” while Cuomo has called the president “repugnant.”

Molinaro said he didn’t vote for Trump. He has said that as governor he would support the president when he acted in the best interests of New York and would criticize him when he didn’t.

On Wednesday, Molinaro will tell his story of growing up poor, the son of a single mother who sometimes relied on food stamps. He likes to contrast his biography with that of Cuomo, who comes from a powerful political family and has $30 million in his campaign account.

“I know what it’s like to struggle in the State of New York,” Molinaro has said. “And I may be an unconventional candidate . . . someone who is willing to put ideology and partisanship aside to solve problems.”

For attorney general, Republicans haven’t yet settled on a nominee, despite the rare opportunity to contest a vacated seat. Keith H. Wofford, a lawyer at the Manhattan firm of Ropes & Gray whose practice focuses on creditors’ rights in bankruptcy cases, has announced he will run. And Wall Street lawyer Manny Alicandro said Tuesday he is running and will mount a primary challenge if necessary.

John Cahill, who served as a chief of staff to former Gov. George Pataki, withdrew from consideration Monday.

Other candidates also are considering a late run for the seat, which could lead to a rare floor fight.

Two-term Democratic state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman resigned on May 7 after four women he dated accused him of abuse and assault.

“I think Republicans’ chances of winning a statewide office have increased dramatically from two weeks ago, because of the abrupt resignation of Eric Schneiderman,” said Steven Greenberg, a Siena pollster. “It’s a better chance than in several cycles.”

For comptroller, Republicans are expected to nominate a registered Democrat, Jonathan Trichter, to run against incumbent Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the Democrats’ presumptive nominee. Trichter’s Republican supporters say their candidate, a former Democratic operative who works in the financial services sector in Manhattan, is uniquely qualified for the job. But former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra, a libertarian Republican, also is considering a run.

Trichter said he would expand the office using “super powers” already contained in law. He said he would force the state to repair the subway and commuter rail system in New York and on Long Island.

Democrats have a more than 2-1 voter enrollment advantage in New York and also are counting on a “blue wave” of anti-Trump fervor.

“The Democrats are looking strong for statewide offices riding a huge registration advantage and what should be a favorable environment,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

Republicans, however, are pointing to corruption scandals in Albany that have played out while all statewide seats and the Assembly have been controlled by Democrats.

Republicans also hope voter fatigue after two terms of Cuomo will strike again as it did in 1994, when little-known Pataki topped Gov. Mario Cuomo after the Democrat served three terms.

“Fatigue can happen with an individual who people feel is around too long,” said David Jackson, a political scientist at Bowling Green University. He said years in office often require compromises that also can erode an incumbent’s base.

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