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Local GOP to sponsor debate among gubernatorial hopefuls

Daemen College in Amherst will host the first meeting of potential Republican candidates for governor on Feb. 10 in a debate sponsored by the Erie County Republican Committee.

The expected hourlong face-off will feature the two announced candidates – Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb of Canandaigua and former Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra – plus State Sen. John A. DeFrancisco of Syracuse, who is exploring a bid but has not yet formally declared, Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy said.

While other Republicans around the state are inviting the candidates for “meet and greet” sessions, Langworthy said the Erie GOP believes a presidential-style debate will generate interest in the election as well as statewide attention.

“What better way than to have a structured debate with three candidates?” he said. “I thought it would be better to see how the candidates perform in a little more formal setting.”

The chairman said it is possible more Republicans will enter the race, and any new candidates will be invited to the 10:30 a.m. event, with details about its structure to follow.

The debate is considered a key event leading to the party’s statewide convention March 1-2 in Saratoga Springs to nominate a challenger to Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand. The party also plans a straw poll those days among potential gubernatorial candidates, with a gubernatorial nominating convention expected for May.

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