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Bob McCarthy: GOP mired in indifference

Robert J. McCarthy

Crunch time is approaching for some of New York State’s most important contests of 2018.

The big one is Andrew Cuomo’s effort to win a third term as governor, a major endeavor no matter how healthy his lead in the polls. For his Democrats, it’s no muss, no fuss as they move forward with Cuomo, Lt, Gov. Kathy Hochul, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

But widespread indifference pervades a Republican Party and its current gubernatorial favorite, State Sen. John DeFrancisco of Syracuse. Maybe that’s why some in the party are setting their sights on Poughkeepsie and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who previously announced he would not run but continues to be begged by some GOP types to reconsider.

Others mention John Cahill, the former EnCon commissioner and confidant of former Gov. George Pataki.

Against this backdrop plays former County Executive Joel Giambra, who has resurrected his old “lighthouse” symbol atop a flurry of recent press releases. He weighs in on everything from fixing New York City subways (not a bad move among frustrated commuters) to recommending future federal infrastructure funding be reviewed by an independent state oversight board.

Giambra charges full steam ahead, but so far without any support from the party. Joe Holland, the former Pataki housing commissioner, has also failed to note significant support.

In the meantime, DeFrancisco conducts himself as the Republican candidate for governor, commenting on all things Cuomo – especially anything to do with gubernatorial pal Joe Percoco now facing corruption charges in a Manhattan courtroom.

The lack of any genuine enthusiasm among Republicans remains curious. Cuomo’s popularity registered its first significant drop in years a few days ago, when the Siena Research Institute showed his favorability among registered voters slipping from 62 percent in January to 53 percent in February. Forty percent viewed him negatively, up from 30 percent last month – all concurrent with the Percoco trial.

Also curious is the lack of any interest in “down ballot” positions on the GOP slate – lieutenant governor, comptroller and attorney general. It all seems to demonstrate Republican acceptance that New York is turning an even deeper shade of blue.

Still, the state GOP will conduct a non-binding straw poll when it convenes in Saratoga Springs for the equally daunting challenge of nominating Chele Chiavacci Farley to run against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in November. Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy, viewed in many quarters as a future state chairman, late last week suggested all candidates for governor declare their intentions by the March 2 conclave.

GOP fortunes look rosier on the home front. Rep. Chris Collins remains the overwhelming favorite in his re-election bid. He can count on a well-stocked campaign treasury and the luxury of running in the most Republican district in all of New York.

But the preliminary stages of the race have proved fascinating. Five Democratic candidates with impressive credentials lined up to take on President Trump’s chief congressional champion. All of these people hungered for the chance in this very daunting race following previous years when Democratic leaders scanned the want-ads for a candidate (quick – who were Collins’ opponents in 2014 and 2016?).

As of now, it appears Democrats are lining up behind Grand Island Supervisor Nate McMurray, who brings a background of international legal experience to the race. He lives outside the district, prompting local Dems to label Collins “hypocritical” for his campaign’s carpetbagger criticism, after he challenged incumbent John LaFalce from outside the district in 1998.

Another candidate – Mumford businessman Nick Stankevich – remains. He says he is weighing his options and will decide soon about whether to challenge McMurray in a Democratic primary.

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