Don't Let GOP Bosses Bypass Republican Rank and File
Updated: Mar 13
Had the Republican establishment rather than GOP primary voters picked the nominee for president in 2016, we would have gotten Jeb Bush as the Republican candidate and Hillary Clinton as the president. Tomorrow a couple hundred New York Republican party leaders are going to make their choice for governor and pretend that it means something. Don’t fall for it. It is nothing more than a straw poll of party bosses who helped lead the GOP to near irrelevance.
For months, State GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy has tried to clear the field for Long Island Congressman Lee Zeldin. Zeldin is a good guy and an excellent candidate. But Langworthy has done Zeldin no favors making him appear to be the candidate of a GOP establishment that doesn’t want the 2.9 million rank and file Republican voters to participate in choosing our candidate.
Despite Langworthy dubbing Zeldin the “presumptive nominee,” the field is expanding. Last week financier Harry Wilson joined Zeldin, Trump White House staffer Andrew Giuliani and former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino in the Republican field. For a state that has not elected a Republican statewide in two decades, we are fortunate to have four credible candidates that Republicans, independents and law-and-order Democrats can get behind.
Republicans should embrace a primary with these four high caliber candidates. It will be a four-month commercial for Republican solutions to problems. All New Yorkers will get multiple opportunities to kick the tires. The candidates will be able to build a statewide campaign infrastructure, fine-tune their messaging and test get-out-the-vote techniques. Our party is better off figuring out who is ready for prime time in a primary than we are in a general election when it will be too late.
The four candidates should do a series of debates in different regions of the state. These debates should be moderated by Republicans rather than a journalist who will no doubt try to lay traps for our candidates and emphasize topics that are a low priority to Republicans. The more debates the better. The greater the likelihood of Republican victory the less press coverage our candidates will get. But it will be hard for the media to ignore the debate schedule. And even if they do, we will beam the debate directly to voters using the many social media platforms.
To defend their exclusion of nearly three million Republican voters, the party bosses claim a GOP primary will waste scarce campaign resources. Nonsense. If the election is winnable, Republican money will tsunami in. Moreover, the June primary affords the winner four and a half months for fundraising and party unification. History supports the benefits of a primary. The last Republican challenger elected governor of the Empire State, George Pataki, emerged from a primary.
In general, the GOP bosses are an unimpressive and often conflicted bunch. The state committee members were duped by Nick Langworthy when they elected him state party chair in 2019. He claimed that as head of the Erie County GOP he won many countywide races in blue Erie County. They trusted but did not verity. In reality, Langworthy’s modus operandi was to give the Republican ballot line to Democrats who went on to win.
I don’t trust these guys to pick the menu at the state Republican convention. They should not be the last word on the person who represents our last best hope to save the state we love. For example, they are selecting their candidate the same day as President Biden’s first State of the Union Address. Tuesday will be a good day to release bad news in hopes that it won’t get much traction. It is hard to think of a worse day to introduce a candidate to the world.
Many senior GOP committeemen or their spouses are political operatives for hire. Often their choice of candidate has nothing to do with electability or policy positions. Committeemen sometimes vote with their wallets. Langworthy himself got caught up in this in 2020 when the party backed “Never Trump” State Senator Chris Jacobs in a special election for Congress after Jacobs’ campaign hired Langworthy’s wife as a fundraiser.
Republicans in New York have four good candidates to choose from and a chance to take back the governorship after years of Democrat scandal and destruction. Rank-and-file Republicans from around the state, not bumbling self-serving party hacks, should be the ones choosing our standard-bearer.
By Kieran M. Lalor, Member of the New York State Assembly (R-Dutchess)
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