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Gibson: "We Can Absolutely Defeat" Cuomo

Rep. Chris Gibson speaks with WAMC's Alan Chartock on Monday.

With the longtime leaders of the New York State Senate and Assembly facing trial on corruption charges this fall, we’ve been hearing a new round of calls to clean up Albany. Adding his voice to chorus is retiring Congressman Chris Gibson, a Republican from the 19th district who says he is considering a run for governor in 2018. Gibson, who has not committed to a campaign yet, spoke today with WAMC’s Alan Chartock on the Congressional Corner.

Chris Gibson: Look we’ve got to inspire people, I think, including legislators to come. There are some good folks, let’s just say this too, there are some good folks who are working in Albany. There are some folks, a couple dozen cases, notorious cases, of really egregious corruption. So when you look at the economy, you look at corruption, and then you look at education — I think we need a new direction in education. I think there is a lot that can be done in the state to bring people together to forge into a new direction in New York state. You asked the question what must be done. Well, somebody like myself, not well known outside the Hudson Valley, maybe parts of the Capital District and I guess outside my Congressional district. There’s a lot I would need to do to get better known. And one thing I have is a work ethic. All my life, worked very hard. I recognize that I would have to start early. This is one of the reasons why that I have even said at this point that I’m interested, even though I haven’t made a final decision is because I recognize the challenge. This challenge is like no other challenge that I have seen before. 20 million people in this state, many media markets. Voter enrollment over 2-to-1 for the Democratic Party, which it makes it tougher for myself, a Republican, to win. But not impossible! I think you have to start early, you have to build a grassroots operation, you have to raise the money, and then you have to be disciplined to go out and find the voter coalitions that will come out to support. I think that it’s there. We have to continuing to look at this extensively.  And I would say stay tuned.

Alan Chartock: If you get the nomination, could you beat Andrew Cuomo?

Chris Gibson: Yes.

Alan Chartock: You think he’s vulnerable?

Chris Gibson: He’s vulnerable. You look at my last election, I am in a Congressional district that President Obama carried both times, in 2008 and 2012. And 2012, he won by over 6 points in my Congressional district. I was outspent by over 2-to-1. This was in 2014, yet I won by 30 points. The New York Times hearing about this possibility that I could prevail in a circumstance like this, sent a reporter, Michael Barbaro, and he did a lot of research in our district. He wrote, I think, a very extensive piece that appeared in the New York Times on the 30th of October of 2014. He documented that I was getting significant bipartisan support. That was reflected in the exit polls and also the results of a 65-35 win. I think that I have the model that if I gain enough traction across the state that we can absolutely defeat Andrew Cuomo.

Alan Chartock: And where is Andrew Cuomo’s vulnerability?

Chris Gibson: On a number of levels. Really on a personal level, I think that he is perceived as a bully. Somebody who hasn’t treated people right. I also think that the perception is out there when someone doesn’t fully support him, that he’ll hold that grudge and certainly try to even that score. And I think that is part of his personality, perceived anyways, and I think leaves him vulnerable. And then, I think he has made some poor judgments, too. Just in terms of education, what he did there, I think he got way out in front. We didn’t even include the stakeholders in that reform. How could it be that we couldn’t include teachers and administrators in a substantive way before we advance in such an aggressive manner on Common Core? I think that was a big mistake. Quite frankly, even with safe and secure, Alan. We may even disagree on this, but I think safe and secure is an absolute issue. I know that there aresome presidential candidates who say stuff happens. I totally disagree. I think the first function of government is to protect its people. I just respectfully would say that gun control does not work. Because why? Because you’re targeting law-abiding citizens. I think that if you want safe and secure you address three things. One is mental health. Let’s recognize that the major issues that we had in Sandy Hook, in Colorado, in Arizona, and in California. These are issues with individuals with psychosis, individuals who are hearing voices. We need more robust mental health support. I’m a co-author of a bill in the Congress that addresses these matters. I’m on Congressional caucus. My wife is a licensed clinical social worker. I get the benefit of her counsel on a regular basis. The second thing is that we have to do better, as far as the relationship, between law enforcement and our communities. We need to support our law enforcement. Law enforcement needs to understand our communities. I applaud my sheriff in Columbia County, who won a grant, to actually study this and to do better. He’s looking to recruit from our minority communities and to better understand the culture. And the signals in these communities so we so that we can diffuse potentially dangerous circumstances and enhance safe and secure.        

Dr. Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the University at Albany. He hosts the weekly Capitol Connection series, heard on public radio stations around New York. The program, for almost 12 years, highlighted interviews with Governor Mario Cuomo and now continues with conversations with state political leaders. Dr. Chartock also appears each week on The Media Project and The Roundtable and offers commentary on Morning Edition, weekdays at 7:40 a.m.
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