ALBANY – With two top GOP potential candidates for governor recently deciding to forgo a run, longtime state Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long admits to worries over whether the remaining possibilities have the right stuff.
“Yes, there’s concern that we have to see how this comes together here,” Long said.
Republicans and conservatives were disappointed when their leading choice, wealthy business turnaround expert Harry Wilson, decided not to run, citing family considerations.
A few days later, Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro announced that “at this time I will not be a Republican candidate for Governor.”
That leaves Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua) and former Erie County executive Joel Giambra as the only declared Republican candidates. State Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) is also considering a run.
While Long is open to Kolb and DeFrancisco, he said they will have to first prove they can mount a credible challenge to Gov. Cuomo, meaning they have to craft the right message and show they are capable of raising significant amounts of money to get that message out.
“Both of them, in all fairness, have a lot to do to get some steam up to make a credible run,” Long said. “We’ll see what happens in the next few weeks. Whether they can put a campaign together or not, the jury is out right now.”
Long said there is no chance his party would back Giambra, who donated money to Cuomo and Hillary Clinton and helped raise money for Mayor de Blasio, who he calls a friend.
“If I was going to give consideration to Joel, I might as well give consideration to endorsing Andrew Cuomo, that’s how farfetched it is,” Long said.
No Republican has won statewide office in New York without Conservative Party backing since 1974.
Long did not rule out the Conservative Party, for the first time since 1990, running a different candidate than the Republicans if the GOP doesn’t select a suitable candidate.
“It’s still too early for that, but that is never off the table,” he said of his party going it alone.
State and county Republican leaders from across the state are set to meet in Albany Monday to discuss the governor’s race. Kolb, Gambia and DeFrancisco are slated to attend. Kolb and DeFrancisco are also expected to address the Conservative Party at the end of the month.
Molinaro may not be running for governor “at this time,” but that doesn’t mean he won’t be on the ticket.
A source said Molinaro hasn’t ruled out running for lieutenant governor. He and Kolb had previously spoken about possibly running as a ticket.
And Long said Molinaro saying he is not a candidate for governor “at this time” left the door open to change his mind if “if he saw a path where he could raise enough money.”
Eyebrows were raised last week when Cuomo’s hand-picked state Democratic Party executive director, Geoff Berman, released a statement trashing state Senate GOP Majority Leader John Flanagan’s response to the governor’s State of the State address.
Cuomo and Flanagan mostly have enjoyed a good relationship, and the hostile statement from Berman accusing Flanagan and his “cronies” of “empty rhetoric” and for being “total phonies” surprised many insiders.
Sources say Cuomo was livid that Flanagan a day before the speech released an agenda promising a “top-to-bottom” review of the governor’s economic development programs.
But a Democratic Party official said the attack on Flanagan “was about what it said it was about — the Republicans defending Trump and his assault on New York taxpayers rather than representing the people who elected them and fighting the massive trump tax increase.”
A source close to Flanagan said the attacks by the Democratic Party official and Berman are “wrong on the facts.”
“For months Sen. Flanagan spoke out against elements of the federal tax plan,” the source said. “Sen. Flanagan is a tax cutter. No one knows who Geoff Berman is or even where to find him.”
Though they met with her previously, state Senate Democrats say they are not behind the recent decision of Alessandra Biaggi to create a campaign committee to run against Sen. Jeffrey Klein, the head of a breakaway group of eight Senate Dems.
A mainline Senate Democratic source insisted the meeting was months ago and that the conference has not engaged with potential primary challengers to any of the breakaway Dems since agreeing late last year to a re-unification plan put forward by allies to Gov. Cuomo.
“If the deal doesn’t hold…then all bets are off, but we’re operating in good faith right now,” said the Dem source.
Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy said that “there’s a deal in place and we’re not supporting primaries against the (Independent Democratic Conference) as laid out in the deal.”
A former top aide to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has taken a new gig with the powerful state teaches union.
Damien LaVera, who after serving as Schneiderman’s communications director became a public relations consultant lobbyist, will now serve in the same role for the New York State United Teachers.
Before working for Schneiderman, LaVera served as press secretary for the U.S. Energy Department in President Barack Obama administration and a deputy communications director for the Democratic National Committee under former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.
“I’m proud to be joining one of the most important and effective organizations in New York, and look forward to joining fight to protect our members and working families across the state,” LaVera said.
Five progressive groups say Gov. Cuomo needs to follow through on his call during last week’s State of the State to close a carried interest loophole that lets managers of private equity funds and hedge funds pay taxes at the low rate that applies to capital gains.
“We were heartened to hear Governor Cuomo say in his State of the State address that he is supporting a plan similar to the one we have advocated,” the groups said in a statement.
“But it can’t be just a talking point to burnish his progressive credentials — it must be a genuine effort to end this unfair tax break for Wall Street billionaires.
The groups said the easiest way to get it done would be for Cuomo to immediately call for special elections to fill two vacant seats in the Senate. If the Democrats win both, they would have enough members to have a majority in the chamber.
“Getting Democrats elected to these seats and unifying a Democratic Senate in time to vote on the state budget would clear the pathway for actually passing a budget that includes closing the carried interest loophole,” the progress groups said.
A group of eight breakaway Democrats who are aligned with the Senate GOP in a leadership coalition last year called for a closure of the carried interest loophole.
But a complicating factor is that Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat who actually caucuses with the Republicans, has said he won’t even consider switching to the Dems until after the budget process.
The five groups signing on to the statement are Alliance for Quality Education, Citizen Action of New York, Make the Road Action, New York Communities for Change, and VOCAL-NY,
Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said the governor is committed to getting the issue done.
“We will do everything we can and invite other supporters to get in the game and help put together the votes,” Azzopardi said.