After saying in January he would not enter the race for New York governor, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro reconsidered. Monday, in his hometown of Tivoli, where his political career began in the 1990s, the Republican kicked off his campaign. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne was at Tivoli Village Hall for the announcement.
Molinaro, in his second term as county executive, officially kicked off his campaign for governor, first in Tivoli and later Monday in Albany. He said the state is at a dangerous crossroads. He referred to New York as a “once Empire State.”
“I know we can restore New York,” Molinaro said. “And I’m running for governor to make our government more accountable and our state more accessible and affordable for its people.”
Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to seek a third term. Molinaro’s bid comes after state Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb dropped out and elected officials around the stated urged Molinaro to run. State Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco is in the race as is former Pataki aide Joseph Holland. Executive Director of the New York State Democratic Committee Geoff Berman, in a statement, says, in part, “Whether it's Molinaro or DeFrancisco, it's clear that the New York GOP is intent on pushing an ultra-conservative Trump agenda, and a candidate that has the same positions as Trump with a different hair color.” Molinaro says he did not vote for Donald Trump.
“I wrote in Chris Gibson for president,” Molinaro said.
Gibson, a Republican, served as a congressman for the 19th District, and Gibson has said he believes Molinaro is the GOP’s best chance to defeat Cuomo, who is also facing an intra-party challenge from Cynthia Nixon. Bill O’Reilly, spokesman for DeFrancisco, says Molinaro’s entering the race changes nothing.
“We keep the blinders on and run and do our job and then, really, you leave it up to the will of the Republican committee in May,” O’Reilly said. “Whatever they decide, we’ll honor. We’ll honor their wisdom.”
DeFrancisco, in a statement, welcomed Molinaro into the race and says he looks forward to a spirited debate. In his kickoff speech, Molinaro talked about some of his jobs prior to holding political office. He mowed lawns and worked in a local deli.
“And I don’t want you to laugh, but I even mucked horse stalls, prepared me for the journey I’m now on,” said Molinaro. “Albany could use a little mucking.”
Molinaro also underscored his working-class background.
“Public assistance was a safety net for us. There were nights that food stamps put dinner on our table,” said Molinaro. “And I thought I was the luckiest kid at the James V. Forest Hill Elementary School because I got a free lunch.”
In 1994, Molinaro was elected as a village trustee at age 18, becoming the youngest elected official in state history. One year later, he won the race for mayor of Tivoli; at the time, he was the youngest mayor in the country. He served as a state assemblyman for five years, and was elected county executive in 2011. Molinaro says details of his campaign platform will be laid out in the weeks to come. Monday, he touted his ability to work across the aisle. And he spoke to ethics reform.
“We must pass tougher ethics laws and enforce them by establishing a truly independent oversight ethics commission,” Molinaro said. “We must implement new procurement rules and provide third-party independent auditing.”
In running for governor as a Republican in a blue state, Molinaro says he will continue his approach since holding elected office.
“I don’t happen to think that shouting louder and, as I said, tweeting meaner, is a way to govern. And I do think that decisions ought to be made based on real facts, real data, and working hard to bring people together,” Molinaro says. “That is what I have done as a village mayor, as a state assemblyman, as county executive, and I hope, if given the honor, I’ll be able to do that as governor of the state of New York.”
Molinaro’s campaign theme is “Believe Again,” and he is using it as a hashtag on Twitter. Journey’s song “Don’t Stop Believin’” accompanied Molinaro following his Tivoli speech.