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Republican Marc Molinaro enters the governor's race

Karen DeWitt

Another candidate has announced he will challenge Andrew Cuomo for governor. This time, it’s Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who offered a political indictment of Cuomo’s practices and temperament in office.

The 42-year-old Molinaro made his announcement in Tivoli, the small Hudson Valley village where he grew up and where he became mayor at the age of 19. He also served in the state Assembly before holding his current job running a county that is part New York City suburb and part country.

He said he considers public service his life’s calling, and a run for governor is the next step.

“I humbly ask you to join me,” said Molinaro, who added his campaign would be “for the very soul of the state of New York.”

He vowed to change the tenor and substance of state government, which he said is too full of self-serving politicians and presidential ambitions. Cuomo is viewed as a potential 2020 candidate for president, but he has not said he’s interested in the job.

Molinaro took on the incumbent governor directly, saying that Cuomo spends too much time dealing with legislative leaders behind closed doors and focuses too much on feuding with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“Too often, the tone coming from the governor’s is angry and divisive,” Molinaro told a crowd of supporters. “The language is crude and offensive. And the office is dark and shrouded in secrecy.”

Molinaro said he prefers “conversation and compromise.”

He said he’d work to reduce the state’s taxes, which are among the highest in the nation, and would help families and small businesses. Growing up, Molinaro’s family was not wealthy, and he thought he was the luckiest boy in his elementary school because he received a free lunch. He said as governor, he’d like to redesign the state’s anti-poverty programs.

Molinaro also wants to fix the New York City subways and invest in other infrastructure. He pledged that if elected, he would serve only two terms. Cuomo is running for a third term.

He highlighted the bribery conviction of Cuomo’s former closest aide, saying New Yorkers pay a “corruption tax” because of the cost of institutionalized graft and failed state-financed economic development projects.

The theme of Molinaro’s campaign is “Believe Again,” a slogan reminiscent of President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again.” But Molinaro, who must run as a Republican in a largely Democratic state, immediately distanced himself from Trump while talking to reporters.

“Who?” he joked. “I hadn’t heard about him.”

He said he did not vote for Trump, but instead wrote in the name of former Congressman Chris Gibson. Nevertheless, Molinaro will need votes from Trump supporters if he wants to win the race, and he tried to reach beyond personalities. He said people want elected officials to listen and serve “in a way that brings people together instead of continuously divides.”

The state Democratic Party responded in a statement, saying Molinaro is pushing the “ultra-conservative Trump agenda” and has the same positions as Trump “with a different hair color.”

Molinaro is not the only Republican candidate seeking the nomination for governor. Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco also is running, and in a statement, he said he welcomes his opponent to the race, and looks forward to “a spirited debate.”

There’s also another Democrat running for governor. Actor Cynthia Nixon is challenging Cuomo from the left in a Democratic primary.

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.
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