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Assembly GOP leader Brian Kolb announces run for governor

ALBANY – The Republicans have their first official candidate to run for governor next year: Brian Kolb, the Assembly GOP leader from the Finger Lakes region.

Kolb, 65, made his decision public Tuesday morning, telling a Rochester radio station he is running while opening a new twitter account to promote his candidacy.

Kolb is among several Republicans who have been talking of challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who most Democrats and Republicans expect to run for a third term in 2018. Cuomo has said he plans to run, and he has been on another fundraising tear in recent weeks, including his annual birthday party Thursday night in Manhattan, where “chairs” of the event are being asked to donate $50,000 to Cuomo in order to attend.

Others on the GOP gubernatorial possibility list include businessman Harry Wilson, Senate Deputy Leader John DeFrancisco of the Syracuse area and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro. Former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra is eyeing a run, the Buffalo News reported this weekend; the lobbyist’s boss, former U.S. Sen. Al Damato, however, is tight with Cuomo and so it is uncertain how serious Giambra actually is about a statewide bid.

Kolb, a resident of Canandaigua, joined the Assembly in 2000 and was elected minority leader in 2009. He represents Ontario County and parts of Seneca County.

A number of Democrats, including outgoing Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, are eyeing possible primary bids against Cuomo.

Though flush with campaign cash and in charge of a Democratic Party that has a two-to-one enrollment edge over Republicans in New York, Cuomo is being seen by critics as vulnerable with voters who, they believe, have grown weary of him after two terms.

Further, Cuomo would be seeking a third term in a year the state budget is looking at growing red ink and two corruption trials are scheduled of people close to Cuomo charged with bribery and extortion schemes involving several high-profile projects, including the Buffalo Billion program.

In an interview with The Buffalo News, Kolb today said he has traveled the state, meeting with voters and officials in both major parties. “The first question I ask everybody is New York State working for you? The overwhelming answer is no,’’ Kolb said, saying there's complaints about everything from New York City subway service to rising property taxes.

“I think, quite frankly, the governor is not a likable guy. People want to like their governor,’’ Kolb said.

“I think everybody realizes he is more focused on 2020 than he is on being governor of our state the next five years – if he is to run again,’’ Kolb added of Cuomo’s effort to keep his name on the list of Democrats eyeing a possible White House run in 2020.

While a number of Republicans are considering a gubernatorial run, Kolb said he does not envision a GOP primary next year. He said he expects the GOP to rally around a single candidate either before or during next year’s nominating convention.

“For me it was do I think I have a real chance of winning? I think I do,’’ Kolb said of his decision to announce his campaign.

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