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Marc Molinaro

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro is running for governor. 

You could call it a cryptic tweet. But it was Marc Molinaro's way of saying, "I'm running for governor." 

Before he informed state Republican leaders on Friday that he's running for governor, the Dutchess County executive took to Twitter to share a link. The post directed his 4,800-plus followers to a five-minute video clip of "The West Wing's" season two finale, "Two Cathedrals."

The episode follows President Josiah Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen) as he reveals that he has multiple sclerosis. His staff says they need an answer on whether he will seek re-election. As the episode progresses, the decision is revealed: Bartlet won't seek a second term. 

What the five-minute clip shows is Bartlet's evolution on the re-election question. The episode ends with a cliffhanger: Bartlet cracking a smirk as he looks out at the dozens of journalists who gathered for a press conference. (Spoiler alert: "The West Wing's" third season opens with Bartlet saying he will run for re-election.) 

Molinaro's decision to run for governor came two months after he said he wouldn't be a candidate for the Republican nomination. In interviews after the announcement, he cited personal reasons for not formally launching a gubernatorial bid. He declined to elaborate on what those personal reasons were and what factors led to the decision. 

It was a surprising decision because Molinaro had spent months exploring a run for governor. In October, he submitted paperwork to create the Molinaro for New York campaign committee. He was taking the necessary steps to become a candidate for governor. 

After announcing in January that he wouldn't run for governor, the field was narrowed to Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, state Sen. John DeFrancisco and former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra. But Kolb, R-Canandaigua, abruptly dropped out of the race in February. 

Kolb's departure left DeFrancisco, R-DeWitt, as the apparent favorite in the race. Giambra, who announced last week that he would no longer seek the GOP nomination and would attempt to mount an independent campaign for governor, wasn't a threat in the nomination fight. There hasn't been a groundswell of support for attorney Joe Holland, a late entry in the race. 

But some Republicans asked Molinaro to reconsider his decision. A "Draft Molinaro" campaign urged the Dutchess County Republican to give the race another look. 

There was chatter in the days leading up to the state Republicans' U.S. Senate convention last week that Molinaro would enter the race. At the convention, he met with a group of Republican chairs and state committee members. He informed them that he is now a candidate for governor. 

A straw poll was held at the convention. The three GOP candidates in the race — DeFrancisco, Holland and Molinaro — were on the ballot. While only a fraction of the state Republican leaders voted in the straw poll, Molinaro won by a wide margin. 

The race for the Republican nomination could be decided at the party's convention in May. State GOP Chairman Ed Cox previously said the candidates agreed to avoid a primary. But that was after Molinaro initially announced he wouldn't be a gubernatorial candidate. 

With Molinaro's entry, the race is wide open. DeFrancisco has collected endorsements from GOP chairs across the state. Molinaro, though, has his share of supporters. One of his key backers is Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy. Langworthy represents the largest Republican committee in upstate New York. 

The process has been messy for Republicans. But some in the GOP hope Molinaro is the candidate who can energize the party and mount a serious challenge to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

In "The West Wing," Bartlet went on to win re-election by a comfortable margin. The path to victory won't be easy for Molinaro. But we'll find out over the next several months whether he can pull off what would surely be a stunning upset.