Tivoli, by the admission of its favorite son who announced his candidacy for governor there on Monday, is in the middle of nowhere. But Marc Molinaro says his grandfather used to joke that it’s better to be in the middle of nowhere that somewhere out on the edge. And the one-time boy-mayor of tiny Tivoli (population 1,118) who then represented the area in the Assembly and now serves as Dutchess County executive says he wants the GOP line to challenge Andrew Cuomo because too many New Yorkers are living on the edge of nowhere right now.
Glistening with sweat in a stifling third-floor meeting hall, Molinaro cast his decision to join the Republican field (which also includes State Sen. John DeFrancisco and former Pataki administration member Joseph Holland) in sweeping terms: New York is at “a dangerous crossroads” and so his campaign will be “for the people and the very soul of New York.”
It’s typical for announcement speeches to reach in their rhetoric, and Molinaro–bursting with energy as he spoke for just over 20 minutes–didn’t disappoint on that front, promising to do no less than “redefine democracy.” There was, however, an interesting roster of specific (though not detailed) policy ideas, like a tougher ethics law, a “truly independent” ethics watchdog for Albany, new procurement rules and a third-party auditor, term limits, and broader initiative and referendum mechanisms.
He emphasized special education, in particular the needs of families with children on the autism spectrum, as well as bolder action to deal with the opioid crisis and to help people with disabilities. Protecting the “most vulnerable” was a constant refrain for Molinaro, who noted his family’s use of public assistance and food stamps when growing up. He also mentioned problems in New York City public housing and the city’s homelessness crisis, using them as an opportunity to knock Gov. Cuomo’s adversarial style: “This is made worse by a governor always trying to trump a mayor.”
The conventional wisdom would be that Molinaro faces steep odds because of his paltry campaign coffers, low name recognition and social conservatism: He is an anti-abortion-rights Republican who voted against same-sex marriage. There is a vein of worry in places like Tivoli, which looks like a lot of places in New York State, where the population is dwindling and social crises like drug addiction are taking a terrible toll, for a candidate like him to tap into. The question is whether he can get taken seriously enough to generate enough votes from low-density parts of the state to offset the Democratic advantages in the big cities.
Hear Max & Murphy’s analysis of the speech here:
… and the speech itself, in full, here: