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Joel Giambra ends bid for GOP nomination, will run for governor as independent

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Erie County Executive Joel Giambra speaks during a news conference about his request to review and evaluate the county's "Clean Air Act" , in Buffalo, N.Y., Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2003. (AP Photo/David Duprey)

Joel Giambra will continue his campaign for governor, but he won't have the Republican line. 

Giambra, a former Erie County executive, announced Thursday that he is ending his run for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. He will focus instead on securing the Reform Party ballot line. 

"My message of reforming and changing the way business is done in New York has been resonating with voters across the political spectrum and while I remain a Republican, I don't think my independent message has connected with state Republican leaders who seem intent on continuing the losing formula that all but guarantees a third term for Democrat Andrew Cuomo," Giambra said. 

As one of three candidates in the Republican field, Giambra was a long shot to win the nomination. GOP leaders were skeptical due to his past financial support for Democrats, including Cuomo, and his endorsement of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. 

Republicans also faced the possibility of a split with the influential Conservative Party, which tends to support GOP candidates for statewide office. Mike Long, chairman of the state Conservative Party, said Giambra was a "nonstarter" for the minor party's nomination. 

Despite Conservative opposition, Giambra maintained that he was the best choice for Republicans to defeat Cuomo in November. He is a Democrat-turned-Republican who previously served in Buffalo city government before being elected county executive. 

He noted that Democrats hold a strong enrollment advantage in Erie County. As a Republican, he won the county executive's race in 1999 and was re-elected in 2003. 

Throughout his gubernatorial campaign, Giambra has been critical of Cuomo's handling of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees mass transit in the New York City area. He also believes he has a "real plan" to consolidate local governments. 

He also panned Cuomo's large campaign war chest — more than $30 million, according to the latest financial filings — and referred to the ongoing corruption trial involving one of the governor's longtime aides and friends, Joe Percoco.

"The real fix starts at the top and can only happen with a governor who is independent of the corrupt Albany culture," he said. "That is what my campaign has been about since day one and this is now why I believe my message will be best heard and responded to as an independent candidate." 

With Giambra's exit from the Republican field, state Sen. John DeFrancisco and attorney Joe Holland are the remaining candidates in the race for the GOP nomination. 


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