CLEVELAND -- While the buzz in Cleveland is about who will win the White House, a different buzz was taking place at a restaurant just down the street from the convention hall, where two potential candidates for governor held court: county executives Rob Astorino and Marc Molinaro.
“I think that’s kind of open-ended,” said Astorino, the Westchester County executive. “You know, everything formally happens in 2018 and we’ll see where the world is at that point. But I’m certainly leaving the door open. If anything, everything we’ve said in 2014 is coming to light now.”
Astorino ran for governor two years ago against Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo. While he didn’t win, Astorino says he remains proud of the campaign and, should he run again, wants more aggressive fundraising.
“I wouldn’t have changed anything other than the fact I wish we had more money back then, truthfully, because it came down to getting our message out and being able to answer his lies and attacks,” he said.
Republicans remain excited by their bench coming up in 2018, which includes businessman and 2010 comptroller candidate Harry Wilson. Carl Paladino, the gubernatorial nominee in 2010, is also considering another run for governor.
One candidate has already taken himself out of the running: Rep. Chris Gibson, a Hudson Valley lawmaker who retires from Congress this year and heads to a teaching job at Williams College.
Astorino may face a challenge for the Republican nomination from Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro. Both men held a meet and great at the GOP convention with New York Republicans.
“Marc and are good friends and have been for a long time now,” Astorino said. “He and I both make each other laugh. We’re both county executives who understand how difficult it is to deal with what the state is heaping on us.”
Molinaro, too, was complimentary of Astorino, even if they may be rivals for the Republican nod.
“Rob and I are great friends,” Molinaro said. “I think our position is work hard, make the rounds, crisscross the state, get to know the people, and really try to inspire New Yorkers.”
Molinaro is also considering a run for governor, saying he cares deeply about both the Hudson Valley and the state.
“I’ve spent everyday in my adult in public office because I care deeply about the people I serve,” he said. “If there’s an opportunity to improve the quality of life and condition for New Yorkers, and I can provide leadership, I’m going to consider it.”
Astorino and Molinaro would face a steep climb if they run statewide, given the Democratic enrollment advantage in New York. Republicans haven’t won statewide since 2002 and hold one final lever of power: the state Senate.
“Obviously runnning statewide as a Republican is difficult just because of the numbers,” Molinaro said, “but I believe at some point New Yorkers are going to say enough is enough.”
Cuomo has said he’ll be running for a third term and has a pretty big deterrent in the form of a $19 million war chest.