RYE BROOK – For most delegates to this week’s Republican State Convention here, the idea of electing a Republican as comptroller or attorney general fails to register.
That’s because Edward V. Regan, of Buffalo, is the last Republican to claim the comptroller’s office – in 1990, and Dennis C. Vacco, of Hamburg, the last Republican attorney general.
Still, statewide Republicans think they have designated two of their strongest “down ballot” candidates in a generation following Wednesday’s opening session that nominated John P. Cahill, of Westchester County, for attorney general and Robert E. Antonacci, of Onondaga, for comptroller.
In the prelude to today’s session that will designate Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino for governor and Chemung County Sheriff Christopher J. Moss for lieutenant governor, party leaders seemed to latch on to everything they consider wrong about Albany – and promised that all will be better after a Republican takeover.
Fracking? Cahill said his background as conservation commissioner in the environmentally friendly Pataki administration convinces him that, with safeguards, hydraulic fracturing for natural gas can work.
Soaring pension costs? Antonacci promised that contributions such as those that have doubled in his county since 2007 will gain his attention.
And though Antonacci promised to refrain from campaign attacks, especially after accepting public financing, he immediately tore into Democratic Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli for a series of failues – while Antonacci surrogate Thomas V. Dadey, the Onondaga GOP chairman, painted the incumbent as a creation of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, and a career politician.
Payments to buy silence for some victims of alleged sexual harassment in the Assembly “would never happen on my watch,” Antonacci said, referring to the Assembly sexual harassment scandal.
Cahill was even stronger in his attacks on Democratic Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. While top female Democrats such as former New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Albany Mayor Kathy M. Sheehan last week lambasted him for his anti-abortion views, he criticized Schneiderman for letting his office to approve such payments.
In fact, he referred throughout his acceptance speech to “Silent Schneiderman.”
“Silent Schneiderman approved the use of taxpayer money to buy the silence of Mr. Lopez’s victims,” he said, referring to former Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez, D-Brooklyn. “Imagine, he attacks me as anti-woman.”
In a convention devoid of discord or controversy as in past gatherings, such as 2010 when Buffalo’s Carl P. Paladino launched a primary against Rick Lazio, the emphasis is settling on basic GOP values. Economist Lawrence A. Kudlow of CNBC fame appealed to GOP candidates to emulate Ronald Reagan by promising to “increase your take-home pay” by reducing taxes.
In addition, State GOP Chairman Edward F. Cox gaveled the convention at the Rye Town Hilton to order by reciting a litany of what he considers failures of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ranging from disbanding the Moreland Commission on Public Integrity to failing to approve fracking.
“On issue after issue, it’s all fraud and fiction,” he told the gathering. “So ‘status Cuomo’ continues.”
Speakers derided Cuomo for anemic job creation and high taxes, while questioning his commitment to the Moreland Commission he established to probe public corruption – and most of all – his Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcmenet Act for stricter gun control. “And while we’re at it, don’t we wish his SAFE Act was also fiction?” Cox asked.
But Republicans also seem to realize that many of their complaints are falling on deaf ears, especially in view of more than healthy polling numbers of Cuomo and others on the Democratic ticket. That’s why references to political trade-offs by the governor to terminate his Moreland Commission and corruption are emerging as major themes of the party as it launches its campaign.
Schneiderman, Cahill asserted, has built a career on “looking the other way” as “political pals” flourished.
“The root cause of corruption is criminals who disguise themselves as public servants,” Cahill said.
Cahill emphasized that education will be a top priority, as he blasted New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s opposition to charter schools and other Democrats’ refusal to pass tax credits for private schools.
The convention resumes today with the nominations of Astorino for governor and Moss for lieutenant governor and an expected speech by Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence.