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COMMENTARY

Bob McCarthy: Carl Paladino goes solidly for Marc Molinaro

Whether you like him or not, Carl Paladino long ago earned the right to offer observations on the 2018 election for governor of New York.

The Buffalo real estate developer pulled off one of the more spectacular triumphs in state Republican history by cruising to victory in the 2010 gubernatorial primary, only to be crushed by Democrat Andrew Cuomo in the general election. Since then he was elected to the Buffalo Board of Education, got kicked off after racist remarks aimed at Barack and Michelle Obama, and has been generally lying low.

But Paladino remains a force in New York politics, even hunkered down in his Ellicott Square headquarters. His primary victory eight years ago foreshadowed Donald Trump’s GOP, and he represents the kind of Republican that now dominates the party – even in New York with its history of “Rockefeller Republicans.”

So now it’s important to note he likes Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive challenging Cuomo this year.

“I’m big on Marc Molinaro,” Paladino said a few days ago. “And this is probably the best opportunity we’ve had to beat Cuomo.”

Paladino’s support transcends the expected – Republicans supporting Republicans. His approval signals a united GOP that appears to include everyone from Trumpsters to Rockefeller Republicans.

And while Molinaro will probably recognize the political radioactivity still glowing around the 2010 candidate (keeping his distance while paying proper deference), he will certainly embrace the party’s Paladino wing.

It’s also important because while Paladino supported Rob Astorino, the 2014 GOP candidate, he never bought into the program like he has with Molinaro.

Paladino still views Astorino as a creation of state Republican Chairman Ed Cox, for whom his disdain is well known. He still blames Astorino for not stepping aside and allowing Trump to run for governor in 2014. He thinks that would have secured the Governor’s Mansion for the GOP while providing Trump with a Washington launch pad. Then again, Trump did all right for himself.

These days, Paladino’s mere friendship – let alone active political support – rises to campaign issue level. Democratic Assembly candidate Pat Burke catapulted Paladino to the center of his special election race against eventual winner Erik Bohen back in April. Bohen, he charged, was a friend of Paladino. That didn’t work.

Cuomo, meanwhile, makes it a point to ignore his erstwhile rival.

Still, Paladino says he will help Molinaro – with money and advice. He thinks Molinaro has a shot – a long shot – if he can raise enough money to spread his message.

“It’s a real uphill fight,” he said. “But he’s got to get in his vehicle and start driving around this state. He has to get the earned media he can’t buy. Otherwise, he’s toast.”

• • •

A few other items gathered along the campaign trail:

• New York Democrats are already anticipating the confusion and potential low turnout surrounding Primary Day, moved this year to a Thursday – Sept. 13 – to avoid conflicts with Sept. 11 anniversary observances. They are launching a “MAKE 13 UNLUCKY FOR TRUMP” campaign with digital, TV, direct mail, and organizing efforts to emphasize the unique Thursday primary date.

• The Democratic primary for attorney general features four top-notch candidates, but so far it ranks as a low intensity effort with only Tish James and Leecia Eve campaigning in Buffalo. Don’t Sean Patrick Maloney and Zephyr Teachout know their way to the state’s second largest city?

• And if Cuomo merits a front page story shouting his scarcity around these parts, it’s fair to note that Democratic primary rival Cynthia Nixon is hardly a regular, either. Maybe she should consult Sen. Chuck Schumer, who learned long ago to regularly show the flag upstate and renew his membership card at Charlie the Butcher’s.

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