N ew York governor Andrew Cuomo may be in trouble, but state Republicans aren’t doing much to help themselves.

Though Cuomo’s popularity hit its highest level in January 2018, his numbers have dropped precipitously over the federal corruption trial of former aide Joe Percoco, who is accused of running a pay-to-play corruption scheme with state contractors. According to a Siena College survey, Cuomo’s approval rating dipped to 53% in February from a high of 62% in January.

At the same time, the New York Republican Party is struggling to unite itself behind a viable challenger to Cuomo, who is running for a third term in the November 2018 election.

State Senator John DeFrancisco is the current favorite to win the GOP nomination at its state convention in May. The state senate deputy majority leader, who represents several communities in upstate New York, has reportedly locked up endorsements from 13 county committees representing some 20% of the vote.

But DeFrancisco faces opposition from party members who believe he’ll be painted as an Albany insider. The Daily News reported last week that state party chairman Ed Cox has been talking to potential candidates — and even former governor George Pataki, who beat Cuomo’s father in 1994, has been approached about running again, though it’s unlikely he’d take the chance of losing another election following his failed bid for the presidency in 2016.

One of those urging county leaders to hold off from endorsing DeFrancisco is Republican political consultant O’Brien Murray, who expressed his doubts in a widely distributed e-mail. “Gov. Cuomo’s campaign will attack John DeFrancisco for double dipping and they will point out that Sen. DeFrancisco voted for the Cuomo budgets,” Murray wrote. “You can’t fix Albany when you are part of the problem.”

The DeFrancisco campaign responded that the senator is a veteran lawmaker who fully appreciates that “punitive taxation and oppressive regulatory burdens are holding our state back” and making life tougher for New York families. “His depth of knowledge will allow him to hit the ground running as a reform governor the moment he takes office,” campaign spokesman Bill O’Reilly said.

Meanwhile, Councilman Eric Ulrich, a Republican from Queens, is “seriously considering” launching a campaign for lieutenant governor to challenge Cuomo’s running mate Kathy Hochul. Hochul is facing a strong challenge from within her party in the form of Councilman Jumaane Williams, a Democrat from Brooklyn who has the backing of Bernie Sanders supporters. Ulrich, who is term-limited in 2021 and maintains a good relationship with his Democratic colleagues on the council, believes he can add value to the ticket against the incumbent governor.

(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 700)