LONSBERRY: Who Should The GOP Run For NY Governor?


 New York Republicans are getting together today to talk about possible candidates for governor in next year’s election.

              It’s like little kids putting on mommy’s shoes and makeup and pretending they’re going to work.

               Fun for them, no doubt, and sort of cute in its way, but apt to have no impact whatsoever on the real world.

               The Republican Party, as a statewide entity in New York, is something of a poltergeist – it died a long time ago, but jostles the occasional table or knocks over a chair to remind people that it is still around.

               And so it is today that somewhere somebody will say something to someone and no one will pretend that it means anything to anyone anywhere.

               Nonetheless, I have some advice.

               As the state party considers who it wants as its 2022 gubernatorial candidate, it needs to decide why it is doing so and what its candidacy means. If being the Republican candidate for governor of New York is a joke, something used to bolster an ego or pad a campaign coffer, then you go one direction. But if the candidacy is actually supposed to offer voters a choice, and hope for a chance of winning, you go a completely different direction.

               For the sake of conversation, we’re going to presume it’s the latter, though we all know it’s the former. Meaning, instead of viewing this like the bosses do – as a sop to throw to one climber or another – let’s view it as the voters do – as the only weapon at our disposal to use against a tyrant.

               See, for some of you at the top, it looks like politics is all a game, a way to pad your wallet and pick our pocket, to mouth our beliefs so that you can build your kingdoms. But for us down here, this crap is real. We work on these streets and live in these towns, and in a state most of our families have called home for generations, we feel that the governor and his administration are hostile and hateful to our lives and our interests.

               We are serious about this, and we need you to be, too.

               So, in that light, here’s what you need to know about this race.

               No stunts.

               That means Giuliani’s kid is out. His dad burned that bridge. In an election in which victory only comes by winning over a bunch of Democrats, anybody sharing a name with Trump’s crazy cousin is a non-starter.

               Ditto for Elise Stefanik.

               Though her new-found conservatism seems as affected as her North Country address, it is also the kiss of death. While wrapping herself in the Trump flag paid off for her – literally, look at those donations – it dooms her for statewide office.

               Maybe running for governor helps Stefanik get hired at Fox News Channel, or pick up a book contract or something, but it does nothing for New Yorkers or the Republican Party. Her political path upward has already maxed out. Though Kirsten Gillibrand was able to ride a similar faux-conservative congressional tenure into the Senate, that’s not going to work for Stefanik. And she’s not going to be anybody’s vice presidential running mate ever, and who knows if she even survives redistricting, so let her keep raking in the 45 money and leave it at that.

               The most likely course to a Republican victory next year would involve Andy Cuomo bulling the Democratic Party into nominating him again – which seems pretty apt to happen – and a vanilla center-left Republican being acceptable enough to disgusted crossover Democrats to capture a majority.

               It would require the Pataki lightning to strike again, and a bad case of Anybody But Cuomo to set it.

               Don’t laugh, it’s happened before.

               So who could be this generation’s Pataki?

               Lee Zeldin has put himself forward, and he’s not out of the question. He’s got New York City name recognition, and has shown initiative and ambition, two good things in a governor. But he starts out medium and glides in from there. He becomes a little less impressive with each conversation.

               But we’re not picking a spokesman, we’re picking someone to slay the Cuomo dragon.

               Zeldin is a maybe.

               Marc Molinaro is standing on the sidelines, kind of wondering why nobody’s calling his name.

               He’s got the best resume, the best demeanor, and he campaigned earnestly last time. And anybody who thinks his loss last go round is a disqualifier needs to read up on Lincoln and Reagan. He also, unlike most gubernatorial rejects, didn’t disappear after the election. He’s stuck around, continued to serve and speak out, and continued to grow, in capability and public prominence.

               Molinaro is a strong maybe.

               Tom Reed would have been good, but he has instead – with Carl Heastie – become the savior of Andy Cuomo’s political career. Also a reminder that if we’re going to be an alternative to scum, we can’t be scum ourselves.

               As the Republican Party makes its decision, it needs to remember that, to have a chance of winning, any candidate must be broadly acceptable to Democrat voters. That’s not a sellout position, or a RINO copout, it’s the truth. And anybody who can’t see that shouldn’t be in the room.

               Because Andy is a monster, and neither the courts nor the Democrats in the legislature are going to stop him. Our only chance is at the ballot box. And for that to happen we need every Republican and a bunch of Democrats.

               The Anybody But Cuomo coalition must be built around a genial, low-key, center-left Republican.

               And let’s hope the party bosses can find one of those.