The contest for the Republican gubernatorial nomination took an unexpected turn Friday, when party leaders unofficially but overwhelmingly backed Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro as their leading contender.
In a non-binding straw poll, committee members and county chairmen gathered behind Molinaro after he reversed an earlier decision not to run this year.
The vote took place at a party convention in Saratoga Springs that nominated party fundraiser Chele Farley as the GOP candidate to face incumbent Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand in November.
Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy, one of those voting for Molinaro, said the county executive received 55 votes of those present, while State Sen. John A. DeFrancisco of Syracuse gained 23 and former Housing Commissioner Joseph Holland received five.
Langworthy said Molinaro’s entry into the race to face Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in November has energized a formerly listless situation.
A Feb. 10 debate in Buffalo among contenders failed to generate any real enthusiasm, he said, prompting many party leaders to urge the search for a candidate continue.
“I think the whole mood has changed,” Langworthy said. “There is now a great deal of enthusiasm after Marcus addressed the group. I think he is in very good shape and on his way to the nomination.”
The party is slated to make its official choice of a candidate for governor when it convenes in New York City in May.
Meanwhile, Farley emerged from the Friday session as the GOP candidate against Gillibrand.
“Chele will get things done, unlike our current senator who is all talk and no action,” said state Republican Chairman Edward F. Cox. “We look forward to having a senator who will work with our majorities in Congress to bring New York its fair share of funds, something that Kirsten has been unable to do.”