Reeling From 2012, NY GOP Seeks Gov Candidate

NEW YORK -

Coming off the biggest electoral loss they had in a generation, New York’s Republican party is hearing their biggest names decline to tackle the state’s hugely popular Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

But that is not stopping party chairman Edward Cox from trying to unseat the Democrat in elections next year. During a visit to Rochester for an interview with a local paper, he said that the real purpose of his visit was to meet a local businessman about running for governor.

John Avlon, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s chief speechwriter, said that a Republican governor in New York is not that farfetched.

“We’re only separated by one river. If Chris Christie could do it in New Jersey, of course there’s room for a figure like that in New York,” Avlon, currently a Newsweek columnist, said.

There is no arguing that Election Day 2012 was one of the bleakest in the history of the New York State Republican Party. President Barack Obama won one of his biggest landslides there, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat once considered vulnerable, won by a staggering 72 percent of the vote, the highest in state history.

Congresswomen Ann Marie Buerkle, a tea party favorite, and Nan Hayworth were both defeated, and Rep. Tom Reed, who was expected to cruise to reelection against an unknown opponent, narrowly staved off a trouncing.

In the state legislature, Democrats regained their veto-proof supermajority they lost in 2010, and the Republicans lost their Senate majority in races gerrymandered for them to win. They only hold power in the Senate through a power sharing agreement with a breakaway Democratic caucus.

And few believe Republicans will keep the 20-year hold on New York City’s mayoralty in this November’s election.

“We have hit rock bottom,” City Councilman Eric Ulrich of Queens, once a rising star who lost a state senate race last year, lamented. “The only place we can go is up.”

One name mentioned as a possible GOP candidate for statewide office is Rob Astorino, the 46-year-old Westchester County executive. Cox also named Harry Wilson, a former state comptroller candidate who lost, Rep. Chris Gibson, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards.

Gibson, a former Marine commander who was named last year by National Journal as the “center of the House,” said Monday that he will not run for governor.

So is the party that produced Teddy Roosevelt, Fiorello La Guardia, Thomas Dewey, Nelson Rockefeller and Jacob Javits dead?

No, but the GOP must expand into minority territory in order to survive, David Laska, a party spokesman said.

Currently, there is only one black Republican in New York State politics, not many more Hispanics, and, since Peter Koo, a Queens city councilman, defected last year, no Asians.

But Cox says that the party has learned their lesson. Following a party “autopsy report” last month, ordered by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and aimed at zeroing into the causes of the disastrous election last year, Cox has been traveling the state and has held several high profile events intended to bring minority voters into the Republican fold.

Cox said that the weakening economy may prove Cuomo’s undoing.

“Now those chickens are coming home to roost,” Cox said. “He has not taken care of the things he needed to.”

Republicans also hope they’ll benefit from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s declining approval ratings. While still a stratospheric 55 percent approval, it is about 20 points lower than last year.

While in 2012 many Republican state legislative candidates sought to align themselves with the governor, GOP leaders say that they are now distancing themselves from him.

Bringing Cuomo down to mortal levels will also require lots of cash. Cuomo’s campaign chest is has about $20 million, and a slew of allied super PACs are promising to spend close to that number to support the governor’s reelection.

The state strategy is to keep the message the same, but reach out to youths and minorities.

“There’s no doubt we have a messaging issue …” Cox said. “New York state can take the lead in reaching out to new populations.”