Another candidate has announced they will challenge Andrew Cuomo for New York governor. This time it’s Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who on Monday offered a political indictment of Cuomo’s practices and temperament in office.
The 42-year-old Molinaro made his announcement in Tivoli, the small Hudson Valley village where he grew up, and where he became mayor, at the age of 19. He also served in the state assembly before holding his current job running a county that is part New York City suburb and part country. He says he considers public service his life’s calling, and a run for governor as the next step.
“I humbly ask you to join me,” said Molinaro who said his campaign would be “for the very soul of the state of New York.”
He vowed to change the tenor and the substance of state government, which he says is too full of self-serving politicians and presidential ambitions. Cuomo is viewed as a potential 2020 candidate for president, but the Democrat has not said he’s interested in the job.
Molinaro took on the incumbent governor directly, saying that Cuomo spends too much time dealing with legislative leaders behind closed doors, and focuses too much on feuding with New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio.
“Too often the tone coming from the governor’s office is angry and divisive,” Molinaro told a crowd of supporters. “The language is crude and offensive. And the office is dark and shrouded in secrecy.”
Molinaro says he prefers “conversation and compromise."
Molinaro says he’d work to reduce the state’s taxes, which are among the highest in the nation, and would help families and small businesses. Growing up Molinaro’s family was not wealthy, and says he thought he was the luckiest boy in his elementary school because he received a free lunch. He says as governor he’d like to redesign the state’s anti-poverty programs. He also wants to fix the New York City subways and invest in other infrastructure. He pledged, that if elected, he would only serve two terms. Cuomo is running for a third term.
And he highlighted the bribery conviction of Cuomo’s former closest aide, saying New Yorkers pay a “corruption tax," because the cost of institutionalized graft and failed state-financed economic development projects.
The theme of Molinaro’s campaign is “Believe Again," a slogan reminiscent of President Donald Trump’s "Make America Great Again." But Molinaro, who must run as a Republican in a largely Democratic state, immediately distanced himself from President Trump while talking to reporters.
“Who?” he joked. “I hadn’t heard about him.”
He says he did not vote for Trump, but instead wrote in the name of former Congressman Chris Gibson. Nevertheless Molinaro will also need votes from Trump supporters if he wants to win the race, and he tried to reach beyond personalities. He says people want elected official to listen and serve “in a way that brings people together instead of continuously divides."
The state Democratic Party responded in a statement saying Molinaro is pushing the “ultra-conservative Trump agenda," and has the same positions as Trump “with a different hair color."
Later in the day, at a campaign stop in Albany, Molinaro was asked by reporters about New York’s gun control laws banning assault weapons. He says he supports “law abiding ownership” but says those who have a history of violent or criminal behavior “should be declined access to firearms”.
He says the root cause of violence and anger, especially among young men, that has led to many mass shootings needs to be examined, and more money needs to be spend on mental health services and intervention programs.
Molinaro voted against New York’s same sex marriage when he was in the state Assembly in 2011. But he says his views have changed and he now supports it.
“Like Hillary Clinton, like Barack Obama, I’ve evolved on the issue,” he said.
The governor and legislature have passed measures to raise the minimum wage, Molinaro says he’d rather help businesses cut their costs saying a “government dictate doesn’t solve problems."
He also calls Cuomo’s ban on hydrofracking statewide an “overreach," saying while he supports environmental regulations, it should be left to local communities to make that decision.
Molinaro is not the only Republican candidate seeking the nomination for governor. Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco is also running and in a statement said he welcomes his opponent to the race and looks forward to a “a spirited debate."
And there’s also another Democrat running for governor. Actor Cynthia Nixon is challenging Cuomo from the left in a Democratic primary.