EDITORIAL: GOP can offer more than just Trump acolytes

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The Daily Star, Oneonta, N.Y.
·3 min read
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Apr. 16—Given the roughly 2-to-1 advantage in voter enrollment held by Democrats across New York, any Republican hoping to win statewide office faces long odds, and would have to combine a shrewd campaign with a bit of luck to win.

That element of luck may have already arrived this year, with incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo facing dual scandals over his deceptive tally of COVID-related deaths at nursing homes during the pandemic, along with a spate of sexual harassment claims from colleagues.

The Democratic governor is politically wounded, and New York Republicans know it. Ray Scollin of Saranac Lake, a former Franklin County GOP chairman, summarized his party's outlook to our statehouse reporter last month, saying Republicans are "very optimistic as we head to a new gubernatorial election year." Scollin added that his party's best chance would be to nominate a candidate who isn't an acolyte of former President Donald Trump. He suggested 2010 comptroller candidate Harry Wilson or a second run for 2018 candidate Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive who lost to Cuomo in 2018 but never really embraced Trump.

The problem with that strategy is that any candidate deemed insufficiently loyal to Trump could have a difficult time surviving a primary for a party that can't seem to get over its unseemly obsession with the disgraced ex-president. For starters, they'd have to beat U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Long Island Republican and hardcore Trump loyalist who announced his candidacy last week.

As one of those who voted to steal the 2020 election from President Joe Biden based on Trump's Big Lie, Zeldin would be a non-starter for most New York voters and would face a withering barrage of attacks from Democrats for his role in the deadly insurrection — as well he should. The same goes for Zeldin's colleague in the Election Stealers' Caucus, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Saratoga Springs, who has hinted this week at a gubernatorial run after a strong fundraising quarter. Cuomo is no saint, but it's hard to think of a crime more foul and unforgivable than attempting to steal a presidential election, and the disgrace of Jan. 6 should weigh on Zeldin, Stefanik and the others forever.

Besides, what good has this Trump obsession done for the party? The GOP lost both chambers of Congress and the White House on his watch. In New York, the GOP has hit rock bottom, with the Democrats holding a statehouse supermajority and the governor's mansion.

One wonders whether Trump cultists like Zeldin and Stefanik are even serious about holding higher office, or are simply using politics as a platform to audition for a gig at Fox News or other conservative media, a path already taken by former GOP Reps. Trey Gowdy and Jason Chaffetz among others. Stefanik has already eschewed interactions with local newspapers in favor of softball guest appearances with Fox's Sean Hannity, who shares Stefanik's aversion to honesty.

If this is the best New York's Republican Party can do, then we are in for a long campaign that will offer voters little in the way of practical solutions. Not that the Democrats in Albany are big on practicality either; a measure tucked into last week's budget provides stimulus payments of up to $15,600 for undocumented immigrants and others who were ineligible for the much smaller federal stimulus passed earlier this year. When Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti, D-Westchester, objected to such largesse, he was flipped a middle finger by a colleague and deemed an "enabler of racists." State Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs drew further backlash when he had the audacity to note: "Questioning certain provisions of the 'excluded workers' bill does NOT make someone racist."

If you're under the impression that Albany's ascendant leftists are drunk with power, you might be right. But they won't be held accountable until the opposition party overcomes the empty allure of partisan zealotry.