New York Republicans run from Trump

- Mei 25, 2018

NEW YORK — Not since the administration of Teddy Roosevelt has the New York Republican Party staged a convention with one of its own in residence in the White House.

Normally that would be a matter of pride and celebration. But during their two days in Manhattan, GOP delegates put together a ticket on which three of the four statewide candidates either did not vote for Donald Trump or won't say.

And that wasn’t the only way in which the party seemed to distance itself from its theoretical favorite son. Only two of the 40 or so people who spoke during the formal convention proceedings invoked Trump’s name. That means the Republican president of the United States received fewer shout-outs than New York Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, a fellow Republican.

Lack of support for the president may work in favor of Republican candidates in a state where a good poll for Trump finds that only two-thirds of voters in his home state dislike him.

The convention in the Ziegfeld Ballroom, an eight-minute walk from Trump Tower, began on the same day that the president made his first visit to Manhattan in five months. But neither the president nor any members of the first family made an appearance. The GOP invited Trump, but said he declined because he didn't want to steal the spotlight.


Had he gone, there could have been some awkward interactions.

While Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro says he would be open to working with Trump if elected, he did not vote for Trump in 2016, citing “significant differences.” He wrote in the name of Chris Gibson, the moderate Republican former congressman from the Hudson Valley.

“I've never been overly partisan,” Molinaro said in a statement. “What I like is people working together to achieve results. I'll work with anyone of any party who earnestly and honestly wishes to help make life better for my constituents, in Albany, Washington, or right next door."

Republican lieutenant governor nominee Julie Killian does not seem to have publicly identified for whom she voted in 2016, and the Molinaro campaign did not provide an answer. But after a tape of Trump bragging about groping women surfaced in 2016, she said that “Americans [were] left with an awful choice,” and that “neither candidate [had] earned [her] vote.”

The only Republican seeking statewide office this year who campaigned on an explicitly pro-Trump platform was Wall Street lawyer Manny Alicandro, who was running to be state attorney general before switching to the comptroller’s race mid-convention. Republicans wound up rejecting him in favor of Jonathan Trichter, a Democrat.

POLITICO asked Trichter if he voted for Trump.

“I’m not talking about politics, especially national politics,” he replied.

The only one of the four people nominated by the GOP this week who has said he voted for the president was attorney general candidate Keith Wofford, who has donated money to Democrats such as former President Barack Obama and Mayor Bill de Blasio over the past decade.

“The Republican Party in New York really is a big tent party with diverse opinions, and the fact that we came together to unanimously select a diverse ticket both literally and in regards to their opinions is a testament to that,” said state party spokeswoman Jessica Proud. “We are totally unified in a shared mission of selecting the strongest possible ticket because we see the failures of the Democrats and the opportunity to win this year.”

In some ways, Molinaro seems custom-made to be an antithesis to Trump. While they both grew up near the Hudson River, Molinaro grew up lower-income in the village of Tivoli, population 1,118. The gubernatorial candidate won his first election at the age of 18, while the president won his at 70.


“Humility is something I learned as a boy,” Molinaro said while accepting the party's designation. “It's hard not to feel that way when the cereal you shovel into your mouth before school is paid for with food stamps. When you listen to your single mom, in her early 30s, whispering into the phone with the electric company, in hopes you won't hear her, asking for the lights to be kept on.”

Or consider the voters Molinaro has said he’ll reach out to in a campaign that has been focused on the idea of “compassion” in its early stages: “I look out from this podium into the eyes of New York Republicans seated here, but also into those of Democrats and independents who may be watching at home or online to liberals, conservatives, and moderates: gay, straight, black, white, Asian, Latino, young, old, married and unmarried, to those able to pay their bills and those, like my family, struggling too hard.”

To Democrats, however, this is all just talk. They’ve pointed to Molinaro’s vote against same-sex marriage while in the Assembly seven years ago and his unwillingness to back gun control measures to portray him as cut from the same cloth as the president.

“The Republicans in this state put at the top of their ticket a Trump mini-me,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said while accepting his party’s nomination this week at the Democratic Party’s state convention. “He’s anti-women, he’s anti-LGBTQ, anti-gun safety, anti-immigration, anti-education and pro-Trump New York tax increase. All he is is a banner carrier for the extreme conservative movement.”

“[The] last thing New York needs is for Trump to have a partner in our governor’s office,” said Bronx Democratic Chairman Marcos Crespo.

State GOP Chairman Ed Cox noted that New York was the first state to give Trump a majority in the 2016 primaries and said that the president “is appreciated by the party here,” but he added that it was focused on “getting New York state on the right track” rather than national politics.

And this, according to one of the primary opponents who went down to Trump, is a good strategy.

“It’s about New York,” said failed presidential candidate and former Gov. George Pataki when asked about Molinaro’s vote against the president. “It’s not about Washington. And people always try to make it about something other than what it is. This is about the future of 20 million people, he cares about them deeply, I do too, and I think he has the right ideas.”

Gloria Pazmino contributed to this report.


 

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