The general election in November is only weeks away, but already many in the political world are thinking about the next significant contest on the horizon — the 2014 statewide elections. State GOP Chairman Ed Cox, in an interview with public radio and television, said he’s working on finding a Republican candidate to challenge Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Democrats now outnumber Republicans in New York State by a 2-to-1 margin. The past three governors have been Democrats, and w Cuomo, a Democrat who has already said he wants to seek re-election, is very popular, even though he’s slipped a bit in the polls in recent months.
The GOP has not yet picked a candidate to oppose Cuomo, but Cox is hopeful, though he said he can’t offer any names yet.
“We do have candidates. Some who have served in public office before and are looking at this very seriously,” Cox said. “And we also have some businessmen who have done very well in business and are interested in going into public service.”
Candidates who have their own money are desirable when challenging an incumbent. Cuomo has around $25 million in his campaign war chest, with the potential to raise millions more if he needs to.
Cox concedes that Cuomo in the past has run on Republican-related issues. In 2010, Cuomo ran as a fiscal conservative. Cuomo recently, however, has focused on social and reform issues. He championed strict new gun control laws, and advocated for codifying the abortion rights in Roe vs. Wade into state law. He also pushed public financing of campaigns. Cox said he expects Cuomo to swing back to more conservative positions in 2014, including cutting taxes and regulations. But he sees a major weakness.
“If there’s an economic downturn, a year from now, he will be in trouble,” Cox said. “Because he didn’t focus on the things he was elected to do.”
Cuomo has lost support upstate over the gun laws, his hesitation on hydro-fracking, and the ongoing poor economy. The governor limited the majority of his public appearances to upstate over the summer, offering aid and support to flood victims, appearing at a wine tasting contest and organizing a white water rafting race. Cox said it might not be enough.
“Just splashing a little water up in the Adirondacks or sipping some wine in the Finger Lakes region is not going to substitute for having really good substantive programs,” Cox said.
Steve Greenberg, a political analyst and spokesman for Siena College polls, said while Cuomo has lost support upstate, he’s still going to be hard to beat. Greenberg said the GOP’s best hope is to find a candidate fast.
“You can’t beat somebody with nobody,” Greenberg said. “The Republicans need a credible candidate if they want to have a chance at unseating the governor.”
There is one potential candidate who has expressed interest — Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino — who unsuccessfully ran against Cuomo in 2010, and who has said he might seek the Conservative line for governor.
Cox initially opposed Paladino as the GOP candidate three years ago. His response was diplomatic, when asked if Paladino would ever be the Republican candidate for governor in 2014.
“He hasn’t expressed any desire to do that,” Cox said.
Cox said Paladino is better off for now sticking to his present job, as an active voice for change on the Buffalo School Board.