Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, a Canandaigua Republican who represented parts of Cayuga County until 2013, launched his campaign for governor Tuesday. He will seek the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Kolb, 65, announced his gubernatorial bid in a two-minute video released by his campaign. He had been considering a run for governor since the summer and traveled to Republican events across the state to gauge interest in his potential candidacy.
"In the end, it came down to if not now, when?" Kolb said in a phone interview with The Citizen. "Certainly I think I have established myself in state government, local government and in the private sector. I don't think anybody has that blend of experience across the board ... The opportunity, to me, is now."
Kolb's business experience includes founding the North American Filter Corporation, an air, gas and liquid filtration systems manufacturer in Wayne County. He also served as an executive at Refractron Technologies, another Wayne County company that manufactures ceramic products.
In 2000, Kolb won a special election to the fill a vacant Assembly seat. His Republican colleagues elected him minority leader in 2009.
Kolb said if he secures the Republican gubernatorial nomination, he will step down as minority leader.
As the top Assembly Republican, Kolb has been a frequent critic of Cuomo's policies, especially the governor's economic development strategies. Cuomo's office announced that the annual regional economic development council awards ceremony will be held in Albany Wednesday.
Kolb derided the competition as a "Hunger Games" approach to economic development. The regions, he said, shouldn't be pitted against each other. If elected governor, he would allocate the same amount of funding for each region and the councils, not the state, would determine how the money would be invested.
"Those decisions should not be made by the governor," he said.
Cuomo is favored to win re-election. Democrats hold a large enrollment advantage in New York and the governor has more than $25 million in his campaign war chest.
But Kolb believes he can win by running what he described as an "unconventional campaign." He will focus on the grassroots, he said, and utilize digital tools. He will appeal directly to people who "really care about having a better life in New York," he said.
He also cited a recent example of a candidate with deep pockets who didn't succeed. When Jeb Bush ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, his campaign spent more than $150 million. His hefty investment didn't pay off.
To compete in a statewide race, Kolb will need to raise millions of dollars. He highlighted his ability to do that on behalf of Assembly Republican candidates. Since he's been minority leader, he said he has helped raise more than $18 million.
"That is not an easy task," he said. "We have to convince people to focus on our ideas, our beliefs and our real solutions for real problems, which is what we stand for, and that's going to be no different in this governor's race."
There are many issues Kolb wants to address as governor, whether it's lower taxes or adopting strict ethics rules. He support terms limits for statewide officials and legislators. If he is elected governor, he pledged to serve no more than two terms.
"We need to make sure that we're always having fresh ideas, fresh voices because New York is a big complex state with complex problems, and I think we need fresh ideas and new blood on a regular basis," he said.
Kolb is the first Republican to enter the gubernatorial race. Other possible candidates include Harry Wilson, a corporate restructuring expert who ran for state comptroller in 2010. Wilson has said if he runs he will spend $10 million of his own money on the race.
State Sen. John DeFrancisco, a Syracuse Republican, and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro are also exploring runs for governor.
New York Republicans are expected to nominate a gubernatorial candidate in the spring.
Ed Cox, chairman of the New York Republican State Committee, lauded Kolb and other potential GOP contenders who are considering gubernatorial bids.
"Governor Cuomo's corruption and mismanagement have failed New Yorkers and it's time for new, Republican leadership," Cox said. "We will be working collaboratively with our county chairs over the coming weeks and months to put together the statewide ticket that will turn our state around."