With his main opposition effectively out of the race, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro believes he has clinched the Republican gubernatorial nomination.
Three more Republican chairs endorsed Molinaro Thursday, including two who previously backed state Sen. John DeFrancisco for governor. The new supporters include Westchester County GOP Chairman Doug Colety. Westchester has 6.36 percent of the weighted vote at the convention.
"Westchester County Republicans want change in Albany, and that starts at the top," Colety said. "Marcus Molinaro is the right man at the right time to deliver that change."
Christine Benedict and Rich Andre, the chairs of the Albany and Niagara county Republican committees, were among DeFrancisco's earliest supporters. But they are now backing Molinaro for governor.
Molinaro now has 48 Republican county chairs supporting his campaign. The chairs represent 82.63 percent of the weighted vote at the convention.
DeFrancisco, who has been losing support this week and announced Wednesday he is suspending his gubernatorial campaign, still has seven chairs backing him for governor. The supporters include Tom Dadey, chairman of DeFrancisco's home GOP committee in Onondaga County.
Molinaro's projected lead in the weighted vote is significant because it would prevent DeFrancisco or attorney Joe Holland, who is also running for governor, from being able to secure an automatic spot on the primary ballot.
To win the designation at the convention, a candidate must receive more than 50 percent of the weighted vote. To get an automatic spot on the primary ballot, a candidate must get at least 25 percent of the vote.
Molinaro quickly became the front-runner for the Republican gubernatorial nomination after he reconsidered and entered the race in early March. At the time, DeFrancisco appeared to be the favorite to secure the GOP nod.
Molinaro's entry altered the race. He collected endorsements from Republican county chairs and received the support of the Conservative Party, a crucial minor ballot line for GOP candidates.
As Molinaro rose, DeFrancisco faded.
DeFrancisco announced Wednesday that he will no longer be "actively campaigning" for governor. He will remain in the race and plans to go to events he was invited to attend.
In an interview with The Citizen Thursday, he relayed his frustration about the process by which Republican leaders passed over him to choose Molinaro. He questioned where Molinaro stands on the issues and said he asked Republican and Conservative party leaders to hold debates between the GOP contenders.
"I think that's pretty realistic and pretty reasonable," he said. "My whole point was you gotta vet the candidates."
His request was submitted two weeks ago. He didn't receive a response.
The two-day Republican convention begins May 23 in Manhattan. Molinaro is expected to become the Republican nominee at the convention. DeFrancisco has said he won't mount a primary challenge.
The Republican nominee will face either incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is seeking a third term, or activist Cynthia Nixon. Cuomo and Nixon are locked in a Democratic primary for the nomination.
The primary will be held Thursday, Sept. 13.