It's the holiday season. Christmas trees are everywhere, decorations are up ... and four Republicans are close to deciding whether they will run for governor in 2018.

State Sen. John DeFrancisco, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and corporate restructuring expert Harry Wilson are expected to announce by the end of the year whether they will enter the 2018 gubernatorial race and challenge Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is seeking a third term.

DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, has traveled to more than 20 counties to gauge support for his potential candidacy. He has been exploring a run for governor since July.

He told The Citizen in October that he would make a final decision on the race, at the earliest, by December or January. His timeline hasn't changed. During his most recent interview with The Citizen over a week ago, he said he plans to attend more events in the coming weeks and then reevaluate where he stands.

"I believe that it's going well," DeFrancisco said. "People are very positive. There's no question that the counties I have gone to, which includes not only upstate but Suffolk and Rockland and Dutchess and all the counties heading down toward the city, that people have had enough of Andrew Cuomo and it's just a matter of getting the best candidate — whomever that might be — and everybody uniting behind that candidate."

Kolb, R-Canandaigua, offered a more specific timeline. He expects to make a final decision no later than Dec. 15.

Like DeFrancisco and other potential candidates, Kolb has been crisscrossing the state and attending Republican events.

"Everything is going great," he said in a phone interview. "It's been very exciting and fulfilling and interesting and a lot of work. But certainly well worth it."

While Kolb has been exploring a gubernatorial bid since the summer, he has been linked to Molinaro. The two former Assembly colleagues have discussed whether to join forces and form a joint ticket against Cuomo in 2018.

The two continue to talk, Kolb said. But there hasn't been a decision on whether they will become running mates.

"Nothing has changed since last time we talked (in October)," he said. "Everything is still percolating."

Molinaro said in a phone interview that he expects to decide on a run for governor by the end of the year. An additional factor in his decision-making process is the election results across New York.

Republicans had their share of victories, but Democrats scored big wins in Nassau and Westchester county executive races. Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who challenged Cuomo in 2014 and was considered a potential candidate for a 2018 bid, lost his re-election campaign to Democratic state Sen. George Latimer.

Astorino has since announced that he won't run for governor in 2018.

Molinaro said he's "not fazed" by what happened on Election Day, but he believes it's important to analyze the results.

"I would offer that I really do believe our party needs to nominate individuals who can connect with voters," he said. "I mean connect in a very sincere and very personal way because I do think that's the one thing that New Yorkers absolutely want and appreciate is elected officials who are just going to be honest and help them to solve the problems that confront their families, their communities and the state as a whole."

Wilson was unavailable for a phone interview, but he previously said that he will make his final decision by late fall.

What sets Wilson apart from other potential GOP contenders is his personal wealth. He has pledged to spend $10 million of his own money if he challenges Cuomo.

He also has experience as a candidate for statewide office. In 2010, he challenged state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, a Democrat. It was the closest a Republican has come to winning a statewide race since George Pataki was re-elected governor in 2002. DiNapoli won by four percentage points.​

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding

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