Andrew Cuomo

Updated: A guide to Cuomo’s 2018 challengers

Gov. Andrew Cuomo faces a few Democratic, Republican and third-party opponents in his 2018 reelection bid.

Although the state primary and general elections are months away, the gubernatorial election is already in full swing, with both Democratic and Republican candidates deciding whether to challenge Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is seeking his third term. Earlier this year, City & State spoke with Bruce Gyory, a Democratic political consultant, and John McArdle, a Republican political consultant, about the roster of potential and confirmed candidates and the state of the race at the beginning of 2018.

Democratic candidates

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But Gyory said that Nixon’s celebrity status may work against her, as New Yorkers could be wary of entertainers seeking higher office in the era of President Donald Trump. He also noted that Nixon hasn’t established positions on hot-button issues, such as criminal justice and housing. Gyory asked, “If you’re somebody who is as accomplished an actor as Cynthia Nixon is, and you’re a smart person, which she is, would you want to do this in the absence of fertile political ground for that kind of an assault on Cuomo?”

The state of the Democratic primary

While Teachout was able to campaign largely on concerns over fracking and the environment in 2014, the governor passed several progressive measures during his second term that could ward off a potential challenger on the left.

“Cuomo has built up an awful lot of armor on his left flank based on delivering on issues like climate change, fracking, education, the LGBT front and, of course, minimum wage and paid family leave,” Gyory said.

Although New York City’s worsening subway crisis and problems with MTA funding could be an issue in a primary race, Gyory said that it would not be an “Achilles heel.”

“Is there disgruntlement from some of the progressive leaders? Yes,” Gyory said. “But does it translate over into anger at the governor from rank-and-file voters? I don’t see it.”

Republican candidates

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DeFrancisco formally announced his bid for governor with a press conference in Syracuse on Jan. 30. While he has garnered support from some county leaders, he recently lost a straw poll among state Republican leaders to Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro. DeFrancisco has said he will stay in the race through the state Republican convention in May.

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Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro - Molinaro declined to run at the beginning of the year, but a “Draft Molinaro” campaign from some statewide Republicans has induced him to enter the fray. Molinaro confirmed to Republican county leaders that he is running for governor, and will officially launch his campaign on April 2. He has already received endorsements from the many Republican county leaders, giving him enough support to win the Republican nomination at the party’s state convention in May.

The state of the Republican primary

Several potential candidates have chosen to pass on a gubernatorial bid, including the reported favorite of the state GOP establishment, businessman Harry Wilson. According to McArdle, Wilson would have been the ideal Republican candidate to run in New York, in large part because of his ability to donate $10 million of his own money to his campaign. Without somebody with a “strong business background, successful, and can self-finance and appeal to independents and some Democrats,” McArdle said, the race becomes more complicated.

Third-party candidates

Joel Giambra The former Erie County executive was the second declared Republican candidate for governor, announcing his bid on Jan. 3, but his previous support for Democratic candidates like Hillary Clinton and de Blasio made state Republican leaders balk. Giambra dropped his bid for the Republican nomination on March 1 and announced that he would run as an independent, but he is still unlikely to garner much support from GOP voters. “I would hope that Republicans can find someone who has not got that kind of background or (given) that kind of support in the past for Democrats to be the nominee,” McArdle said before Giambra dropped out.

Larry Sharpe – Sharpe, a businessman, is expected to win the Libertarian Party’s endorsement in the gubernatorial race. His campaign has reported donations more than five times the amount of Republican candidates’ total, and he currently has over $26,000 in cash on hand.

Howie Hawkins – Hawkins was the Green Party gubernatorial candidate in 2014. On March 21, he released a statement welcoming Nixon to the race and saying that he “would be happy to host a public forum with Cynthia Nixon in my home city of Syracuse for a wide-ranging discussion of the issues.” He described himself in this statement as “contemplating” running for governor in 2018.

The state of the general election

Between the dearth in declared Democratic challengers and Republican opponents as well as a steady governing record and a deeply unpopular president, Cuomo is well-positioned for the general election.

“I wouldn’t bet against him,” McArdle said. He also said time is running out for potential candidates on either side to launch a bid against Cuomo, due to the fundraising and campaigning needs. “Ideally, they’re already announced and they’re out circulating the state raising money.”

Gyory noted that Democrats have a voter registration advantage in New York. Plus, other Democratic officials in New York – such as U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul – are popular in the state, while the Republican Party, at least nationwide, is not. Since New York has not seen a Republican candidate win statewide office since Gov. George Pataki, who was last re-elected in 2002, Gyory said any state candidates will now be tied to Trump.

“In New York politics, Trump spells ‘tsuris,’” he said, referring to a Yiddish term for trouble.