U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, is among a handful of politicians state Republican leaders are considering as a challenger for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, in 2014, two local county Republican chairmen said Monday.
“If they (GOP party leaders) could convince him to do that, more power to us,” said Warren County Republican Chairman Mike Grasso.
Stephanie Valle, a spokeswoman for Gibson, confirmed he has had conversations with Republican leaders about the governor’s race, but at this point, she said, he is focused on his congressional district.
“There’s a number of issues that he’s working on in Washington and throughout the district, and that’s where his focus is,” she said. “I know there have been folks from across our district and the state who have mentioned to Chris that they would like him to consider something. So he is very flattered by their belief that he would be someone that could represent their values in Albany.”
Grasso said speculation has circulated among Republican leaders behind the scenes for about six months that Gibson might run for governor.
“The state committee’s job is to poll various individuals who they feel are of a superstar nature in trying to come up with a gubernatorial candidate,” Grasso said. “Chris is certainly one of those people that has a resume that is impeccable, has the right mindset as far as fiscal conservancy and the basic tenets of the constitution.”
Saratoga County Republican Chairman John Herrick said he, too, was aware of discussion that Gibson might run for governor.
“I had heard that he was on a short list that people were talking about,” he said.
Both county chairmen said they had not spoken directly with Gibson about a candidacy, which became public when the New York Post on Monday reported that Gibson was among five politicians with whom state Republican leaders have been discussing the 2014 governor’s race.
The Post, citing an unspecified “senior New York Republican strategist,” identified the five as Gibson, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, investment fund manager Harry Wilson, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and Chautaqua County Executive Greg Edwards.
Edwards was the 2010 GOP candidate for lieutenant governor and Wilson was the 2010 GOP candidate for state comptroller.
Gibson, a retired Army colonel, represented the Glens Falls region in Congress in 2011 and 2012.
He was re-elected after congressional redistricting in 2012 to a new district that stretches from Rensselaer County south in the Hudson Valley.
Cuomo, until recently, had been considered a shoo-in for re-election to a second term in 2014.
“Obviously, the governor has very strong polling numbers and a big bank account, and up until recently had been popular with a lot of Republicans as well,” said David Catalfamo, a partner in Capitol Public Strategies, a political consulting firm based in Albany.
Cuomo’s popularity dropped after he pushed through the Safe Act, a gun control bill, in January, and Republican leaders now are more optimistic about their chances of defeating him, said Grasso, the Warren County chairman.
Gibson has a strong record on gun control legislation, he said.
Catalfamo previously advised Molinaro on his county executive race.
He said Molinaro “is just really flattered that people noticed the hard work and efforts he has done in Dutchess County.”
Catalfamo said potential candidates will take time to sort out their chances and the political climate.
Candidates, unless they are personally wealthy, would need to start raising money around May to be competitive with Cuomo, who already has a large campaign fund, he said.
“If you’re Harry Wilson, you have the potential to be able to jump into the race really almost at the last minute, if you are willing to expend a lot of your own personal resources,” Catalfamo said. “But if you’re an elected official and you’re not independently wealthy, you’re going to have to get pretty serious about that in pretty short order.”
Herrick, the Saratoga County Republican chairman, said Gibson demonstrated an ability to inspire a grassroots campaign when he ran for Congress in 2010, defeating incumbent Democrat Scott Murphy of Glens Falls.
“People that were never involved in politics before got involved in his race,” Herrick said. “That says a lot about Chris Gibson. That’s the kind of person I think the party needs for a run for governor, especially against the sitting governor.”