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New York GOP picks Molinaro for governor

Molinaro for Governor
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, seen here kicking off his campaign in April, has won the New York state Republican Party's nomination for governor.

Republicans meeting at the state convention in New York City nominated Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro as their candidate for governor Wednesday and offered a scathing critique of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is seeking a third term in office.

Molinaro presented himself as a person who overcame the odds. He grew up in a family that relied on food stamps, became mayor of his hometown of Tivoli at 19, and now runs one of the state’s more populous counties.

“I don't come from wealth or fame. I wasn't born into a political dynasty. I'm no film or television star,” Molinaro said. “I'm just an everyday New Yorker with a calling and some hard-earned know-how. I make no other claim.”

The 42-year-old said his years of experience in politics would help him as governor; he said he’d value efficiency and would get rid of any non-performing state agencies and commissions. Molinaro said he plans to drastically cut property taxes and Medicaid costs, but would do so with care for others, saying the state needs a “strong safety net” and that he’s not “ceding compassion” to the Democrats or the progressive Working Families Party.

He said he also would end “corporate welfare” and the influence of big-money campaign donors that he said occurs under Cuomo, adding that “stakeholders in the Albany power and money game will spit in their coffee” when they hear his plans.

“Albany will not be a cash cow for the rich and powerful any longer. We will not be an ATM for out-of-touch politicians anymore. Not for the big-money donors, not for the politicians looking to dole out billions of dollars in political favors. Not when I'm governor,” Molinaro told the cheering crowd. “The pay-for-play schemes … this New York fire sale ends now.”

Molinaro said he’ll demand a vote on limiting governors to just two terms in office. He said Cynthia Nixon, the Working Families Party candidate and Democratic primary candidate for governor, “has decency.” He also said he, like Nixon, would create a Moreland Commission to probe corruption in state government if he’s elected governor. Nixon pledged to appoint an anti-corruption commission earlier this month.

Molinaro was introduced by former New York Gov. George Pataki, who was the last Republican to hold statewide office.

Pataki said he also was an obscure politician from the Hudson Valley in May 1994. People doubted that he would win, and three days before the election, he was 17 points behind in the polls. But he won anyway.

“And just like in 1994, in November 2018, you’re going to be going, ‘How did this happen?’ ” Pataki said. “Well, let me tell you how it happened. Because the people of New York know we need to change Albany.”

While speakers frequently mentioned Cuomo and condemned him as corrupt and imperious, there were far fewer mentions of the highest-ranking Republican in the nation, President Donald Trump.

Molinaro has distanced himself from Trump, a native New Yorker who remains popular among base Republicans but is reviled by many Democrats and independents in the state.

Pataki, speaking to reporters after his speech, said he does not think that will hurt Molinaro.

“New Yorkers want somebody who’s going to be the governor of the state, and not somebody who looks first to Washington for direction,” Pataki said.

Trump was due to hold a fundraiser just blocks from the site of the Republicans’ convention but was not expected to visit the state GOP event.

Republicans chose Julie Killian for lieutenant governor. Taking an indirect shot at former Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned this month after multiple women said he physically abused them, Killian said New York’s government must end sexual harassment and stop ignoring the complaints of victims.

“We live in a state where ethics are a punchline, where women are praised at the microphone — then groped behind closed doors,” Killian said. “And ignored when they make the gut-wrenching and sometimes career-ending decision to speak out.”

Killian, who has a chemical engineering degree, most recently ran unsuccessfully for a special election for a state Senate seat in Westchester.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.