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Assembly GOP leader running for governor


There’s now one official candidate running for governor of New York in 2018, and that’s the Assembly’s Republican leader, Brian Kolb.

He announced his plans in a video released Tuesday.

Kolb, who’s been an Assembly member since 2000, is also a businessman. He’s the founder and past president of two companies in the Rochester area, where he grew up. Kolb said he’d draw on the experiences of both worlds if he were to lead the state.

He said he’s been traveling and meeting with New Yorkers and asking them whether state government is working for them. 

“If it’s not, then I think it’s time for a change,” said Kolb, who added that most of the people he’s talked to have lost faith in state government. 

“I’m going to try to change those perceptions,” he said. 

Kolb is somewhat of an underdog in the race. He leads the smallest faction in the Legislature, in an Assembly dominated by Democrats, and is little known outside of Albany. As an upstater, he’ll need to convince voters in New York City and the surrounding suburbs that he’s a good alternative to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo, who has a $24 million campaign war chest, has not officially announced his candidacy, but has said he intends to seek a third term next year.

Kolb admitted the campaign won’t be easy.

“It’s a huge mountain to climb; some people liken it to pushing a boulder up a hill,” Kolb said. “Which is almost like being the leader of the Assembly Republican conference.”

The low-key Assembly minority leader said Cuomo is too much of a politician and spends too much time on splashy photo ops and economic development ideas that he said haven’t worked. And Kolb said the governor, who has been speaking out more often on the national stage lately, may be too distracted by a desire to run for president in 2020 to effectively govern the state. 

“I believe he should not run for re-election for governor, win, lose or draw, if he’s got any inkling to put his hat in the ring in the presidential sweepstakes,” Kolb said. “Because you can’t take your eye off the ball of New York state. It’s too complicated, and we’ve got too much to do.”

Cuomo, when asked about the 2020 presidential race, said he is only focused right now on being governor.

Kolb is pro-life, but said he would not impose his anti-abortion views on others if he became governor, saying “a woman’s right to choose is a decided issue.”

He is a member of the League of Women Voters and the NAACP, as well as the NRA. Kolb said he voted against the strict gun control measures approved by Cuomo and the Legislature after the Sandy Hook, Connecticut, shootings in 2012, saying they unfairly harm law-abiding gun owners. He said he supports having two different laws on gun control, one for upstate and one for downstate.

But Kolb said he wants to focus his campaign on financial issues, like improving the standard of living for New Yorkers and lowering taxes, as well as reforming corruption in state government. In his introductory video, he mentions Cuomo’s former top aide and other associates who go on trial next year.

There are at least three other potential Republican candidates for governor: Syracuse state Sen. John DeFrancisco, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and businessman Harry Wilson. Kolb said he knows and likes them all.

Kolb said he’ll support whoever is ultimately chosen as the candidate at the Republican state convention next spring.

“I’m a team player,” he said.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.