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Inside the GOP Convention: Day One

New York Republicans kicked off their convention in Midtown Manhattan on Tuesday. WNYC's Bob Hennelly and Azi Paybarah report live from the convention as the GOP picks its slate of candidates for the fall elections.

Big Tea Party Win

In a big win for the state's Republican Tea Party activists, the State Convention has picked Gary Bernsten, a former CIA agent, as the Republicans designated candidate to oppose Senator Charles Schumer.  Runner-up Jay Townsend, a career law enforcement officer did get enough delegates to challenge Bernsten in the September primary.

In his acceptance speech, Bernsten said he supported Arizona's approach of using local law enforcement to enforce Federal immigration laws.
Delegates will decide on Thursday who they want to see challenge Senator Gillibrand. - Bob Hennelly


Cox Pep Talk

In his opening remarks to the New York Republican State Party delegates chairman Ed Cox blasted Democrats for fostering a "culture of corruption" in Albany. Cox told the partisan crowd that the recent GOP defeat of Democratic incumbent county executive races in Nassau and Westchester counties was proof that the party was on a major upswing.

Cox is supporting Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, a former Democrat. In his remarks Cox said the Republican Party's deliberations had to be an open and transparent process that engaged voters even if it meant a contested primary.

An opening video presentation for the delegates presaged this fall’s Republican line of attack, which will target the Obama Administration's track record on health-care and federal spending. - Bob Hennelly


Republicans Back Harry Wilson for Comptroller

New York State Republicans have thrown their support behind Harry Wilson to run against Democratic State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. Wilson is a former Fulton County corporate turn-around specialist who has also worked for hedge funds. He was credited with playing a critical role in executing General Motor's re-organization.

In 2007 DiNapoli was selected by the State Legislature to fill out the unexpired term of former State Comptroller Alan Hevesi after he was indicted on corruption charges, for which he was ultimately convicted.

Harry Wilson, a Harvard MBA, was picked by the Obama Administration to serve on the White House Task Force to revive the Detroit auto industry.  Wilson was nominated by acclamations by the Republican convention. On Friday, he won the Conservative Party's backing. Wilson, who is independently wealthy, has left the door open for self-funding a campaign, which he thinks could run anywhere between $5 to $10 million. - Bob Hennelly


Nixon's Back

Comedian and long-shot Democratic senate candidate
Randy Credico dons a Richard Nixon mask in the Sheraton lobby, echoing what was a major talking point of the State Democratic Party: Nixon's back.

The state Democratic Party's executive director, Charlie King, held a scrum with reporters this afternoon, where he nearly set a record for dropping Nixon's name in a single event. (The NYS GOP chairman, Ed Cox, is Nixon's son-in-law, and in a blue state like New York, Nixon's name is good way to drive voters away from the Republican column). - Azi Paybarah


Local Republicans Gear Up for November Elections  

Today more than 400 New York State Republicans, delegates and hundreds of party activists filled the Sheraton in Midtown. On the opening day agenda is the selection of two candidates to take on Democratic U.S. Senate incumbents. GOP contenders for the Gillibrand seat are former Port Authority and MTA Commissioner Bruce Blakeman, former Bronx Congressman Joe DioGuardi and David Malpass, who was a columnist who served in the Reagan and Bush Administrations.

For the Schumer seat Republicans Nassau George Maragos, Nassau County Comptroller, Gary Bernsten, former CIA agent , Jay Townsend, a small businessman and Republican campaign consultant and Jim Staudenraus, a businessman from Shelter Island. - Bob Hennelly       


Not the Establishment  

In a scrum inside the Sheraton Hotel lobby, New York State Democratic Party Executive Director Charlie King defended his party's gubernatorial nominee saying, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo "is not the establishment" candidate.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio tore into Cuomo for claiming to be part of the "new Democratic Party," despite his two-plus decades of work as a Democratic operative in New York. - Azi Paybarah


We Are Going to Get That Horserace Coverage    

Steve Levy has been arguing to reporters, and GOP delegates that letting him on the ballot to wage a primary fight for the party's gubernatorial nomination, will give the GOP something they can't afford to go without. - Azi Paybarah


Media Attention

Levy, chatting with reporters inside the ballroom at the Sheraton, said if he's allowed onto the ballot, and fights it out till September against Rick Lazio, "we are going to get that horserace coverage" in the daily media, and by the time it's over, voters will know the name of the GOP nominee.

So far, both Lazio and Levy, and two lesser-known GOP candidates, trail Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo by double digits. - Bob Hennelly

Conservative Split on Staten Island

The Conservative Staten Island Borough President Jim Molinaro endorsed Democratic Rep. Mike McMahon for re-election, but the head of the state Conservative Party, Mike Long, just endorsed one of the GOP challengers in that race, Mike Grimm.

To further complicate things-- the Staten Island Republican Party backed Grimm's Republican challenger, Michael Allegretti.

There is no unity, it seems, anywhere in that race. - Azi Paybarah