Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb is considering a run for governor in 2018.
The Canandaigua Republican said Wednesday he's been asked by party leaders, other elected officials and members of the business community to challenge Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who will likely seek a third term next year.
"I am definitely giving it serious thought," Kolb said in an interview. "I think I could be a great governor. Having said that, you have to get elected and the first step is can you have the support of the party statewide? Can you raise enough funds to support a credible campaign?"
Kolb, 65, is the longest-tenured state legislative leader. He was selected to lead the Assembly Republican conference in April 2009. He was first elected to the state Assembly in 2000. His district includes all of Ontario County and part of Seneca County in the Finger Lakes region. Before districts were redrawn in 2012, he represented nine towns in Cayuga County.
He has considered running for higher office before. He was mentioned as a possible candidate for Congress in 2010 and 2012, but he opted not to run. He asked to run against U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in 2010. He passed on that race, too.
A former businessman, Kolb co-founded the North American Filter Corporation, a Wayne County-based company that manufactures air, gas and liquid filtration systems. He previously served as president of Refractron Technologies, a ceramics manufacturer in Wayne County.
As the Assembly minority leader, he has been critical of Cuomo's policies. When the governor recently announced a plan to invest $7 million from bank settlements to support college education programs for inmates, Kolb accused Cuomo of prioritizing prisoners over law-abiding students.
After Cuomo signed the SAFE Act, a gun control measure adopted in 2013, Kolb said it was the "worst piece of legislation" he's seen during his Assembly career.
Kolb has raised questions about how the new Tappan Zee Bridge will be financed. He's also called for ethics reform in the aftermath of several public corruption cases, including one involving Cuomo's former aide Joe Percoco.
He conceded that Cuomo would be a formidable opponent. The Democratic governor not only has enrollment on his side — there are 3 million more active Democrats in New York — but he has more than $25.6 million in his campaign war chest.
"That's tough to compete against," he said.
Kolb added, "But I think when you really start breaking down on issues and how the governor has run the administration and he's had his own people that are going to trial, I think there's a lot to talk about on a legitimate policy and issues platform that has nothing to do with him being a Democrat. It has everything to do with how he's governed and what he's pushed for."
One issue that could loom large in the 2018 election is the status of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York City's mass transit system. Delays throughout the city's subway system have caused problems for commuters.
Kolb called the subways "a disaster." He cited the MTA's woes as a reason new leadership is needed.
He also mentioned the ongoing squabbles between Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. He said the spats are "childish."
"I think you need somebody that's willing to work with everybody. I think I've demonstrated that as the (Assembly minority leader) and also as an assemblyman that I can reach across the aisle."
Kolb is the latest Republican to express interest in the gubernatorial race next year. Other names mentioned as possible candidates include Harry Wilson, a corporate restructuring expert who ran for state comptroller in 2010, and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.
Two past Cuomo challengers, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino, are considering bids for governor.
Kolb isn't the only Republican state lawmaker who is exploring a gubernatorial run in 2018. State Sen. John DeFrancisco, a Syracuse Republican, has been traveling across the state to gauge interest in his potential candidacy.
Republicans believe Cuomo is vulnerable in 2018. A Siena College poll released in July found Cuomo's favorability at 52 percent — the lowest level since February 2016. Voters are split on whether they would support the governor for re-election.