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Robert McCarthy: Political sights are already set on 2018

More news, notes and observations:

• The eyes of New York are upon Texas, at least GOP eyes.

Republican sources say Harry Wilson made his way to Austin for a mid-week meeting of the Republican Governors Association in another sign that the Westchester financier continues to seriously explore challenging Democrat Andrew Cuomo next year.

Wilson is only a semi-familiar name in New York as the Republican candidate for comptroller in 2010. But he has lots of his own dollars and a business background that attracts many in the GOP. Now, many party leaders are waiting for his imminent decision, as are other potential gubernatorial candidates: Sen. John DeFrancisco of Syracuse, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb of Canandaigua and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.

• When that 2018 gubernatorial election materializes, watch for New York to emerge as a battleground of ideas. Already, Cuomo is railing against the national GOP’s tax overhaul plan as bad for the state. The loss of the state and local tax deduction in the new plan will prove devastating for the New Yorkers who itemize, Cuomo says, and will drive many wealthy residents out of the state.

As a result, Cuomo is blasting local Republican Congressmen Chris Collins and Tom Reed in his campaign against the policies of President Trump and his legislative allies. In turn, Collins and Reed have turned their rhetoric against the governor in an escalating conflict. They insist most New Yorkers – at least in this part of the state – will save money under the new tax plan.

You can almost feel this battle brewing for the 2018 gubernatorial election, not to mention congressional contests. Trump has handed this new issue to Cuomo on a silver platter. Now it appears the governor is ready to accept the challenge. So will the GOP.

• How serious a target does Collins rank in Cuomo Land? A knowledgeable source reports that a top Cuomo representative recently approached Colleen DiPirro, the retiring president of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce, to run against the congressman next year. DiPirro is a Republican, requiring the approval of Democrats throughout the sprawling district, but would have proved a most serious opponent.

The source also indicates DiPirro has better things to do in retirement and declined the offer. But it shows Collins remains a priority.

• Speaking of Cuomo adversaries, don’t be surprised to see the governor target Ray Walter in coming months following the Williamsville assemblyman’s testy confrontation with economic development czar Howard Zemsky during an Albany legislative hearing a few days ago. Walter’s questions stemmed from a Federal Reserve Bank of New York report indicating upstate’s job growth was “losing steam” following recent gains.

“Our job here is to draw a direct connection between what we are doing with taxpayer dollars to that [economic] renaissance and I’m not convinced you can do that,” Republican Walter told Zemsky. “So if we could focus more on that than the platitudes.”
Zemsky then shot back at his fellow Western New Yorker.

“My job has been to be involved with Buffalo and the revitalization of Buffalo in a way that, assemblyman, you could have never imagined sitting in that seat for however long you’ve been in it,” he said.

Robin Schimminger knows all about the results of asking similar questions. Back in January the governor painted the Kenmore assemblyman as an obstructionist to the economic development approach he and Zemsky have crafted. He has labeled “old-fashioned pork barrel” Schimminger’s insistence on legislative input.

“It’s member items; the way it used to be. It’s not that they attend the event,” Cuomo said. “They are the event.”

And Schimminger is a Democrat!

• Assembly update: Add Eric Bohen’s name to the list of possible successors to Mickey Kearns in the Assembly. The South Buffalo native is the son of Ironworkers Business Agent Bill Bohen and a Buffalo Public Schools teacher with lots of political experience.

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