Another candidate has announced he will challenge Andrew Cuomo for governor. This time, it’s Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who 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 said he considers public service his life’s calling, and a run for governor is the next step.
“I humbly ask you to join me,” said Molinaro, who added his campaign would be “for the very soul of the state of New York.”
He vowed to change the tenor and substance of state government, which he said is too full of self-serving politicians and presidential ambitions. Cuomo is viewed as a potential 2020 candidate for president, but he 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 de Blasio.
“Too often, the tone coming from the governor’s 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 said he prefers “conversation and compromise.”
He said 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 he thought he was the luckiest boy in his elementary school because he received a free lunch. He said as governor, he’d like to redesign the state’s anti-poverty programs.
Molinaro also wants to fix the New York City subways and invest in other infrastructure. He pledged that if elected, he would serve only two terms. Cuomo is running for a third term.
He highlighted the bribery conviction of Cuomo’s former closest aide, saying New Yorkers pay a “corruption tax” because of 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 Trump while talking to reporters.
“Who?” he joked. “I hadn’t heard about him.”
He said he did not vote for Trump, but instead wrote in the name of former Congressman Chris Gibson. Nevertheless, Molinaro will need votes from Trump supporters if he wants to win the race, and he tried to reach beyond personalities. He said people want elected officials 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.”
Molinaro is not the only Republican candidate seeking the nomination for governor. Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco also is running, and in a statement, he said he welcomes his opponent to the race, and looks forward to “a spirited debate.”
There’s also another Democrat running for governor. Actor Cynthia Nixon is challenging Cuomo from the left in a Democratic primary.
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 hydro fracking statewide an “overreach”, saying while he supports environmental regulations, it should be left to local communities to make that decision.