Republican gubernatorial hopeful Harry Wilson was in Albany on Friday, where he detailed his plan to make change in New York if elected governor in November.
Wilson is calling that the “Turnaround New York” Plan, which is a 6-tier approach to changing ethics, elections, and legislative processes on the state level.
“You might say ‘Harry, there are lots of problems in New York State’ and sadly, there are. But all of those are an outgrowth of the problems we face because of our broken state government,” Wilson said.
“Whether it’s rising crime, sky high taxes, rising cost of living… All of those are an outgrowth of a broken system.”
One of the biggest proposals is a change to the petitioning process, making it easier for a candidate to make it onto the ballot when running for office. Wilson said that would improve the pool of candidates for office, which would lead to better legislative outcomes.
“We are right now in the middle of a massive petitioning drive to land 15,000 signatures to be on the primary ballot. If I was running for governor of Texas, I could write a $3,750 filing fee and be done. Who benefits from that? Not the voters of the state,” he said.
Wilson also voiced his support for ranked-choice voting, which was used in the recent New York City Mayoral election. That’s a somewhat complicated and controversial system that allows voters to “rank” up to 5 candidates for an office, in order of preference. It requires the winner to have more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round of tabulations.
If there isn’t a winner, the candidate in last place has their votes redistributed to the next person “ranked” on that ballot, with the process repeating until only two candidates are left, with the higher total being declared the winner.
Wilson said the system could facilitate more civil dialogue.
“Ranked choice voting encourages people to be more constructive in the campaign season, because you don’t want to alienate the other people’s supporters. And that, I think, is something that is sorely missing from politics,” he said.
Outside of that agenda, Wilson detailed separate proposals aimed at accountability in state government. He’s calling for eight-year term limits for all statewide elected officials, and 12-year term limits for other state legislators.
He’s also calling for the implementation of an initiative, referendum, and recall system. Initiative allows for the public to introduce legislation to be voted on, a referendum allows the public to vote on a legislative proposal, and recall allows the public to remove an elected official from office with enough votes.
The last part of Wilson’s plan is ethics reform, part of which is changing response rates to public records requests under the Freedom of Information Law. The other part is changing the composition of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE.
“JCOPE is a disaster. I don’t think anybody disagrees with that. It’s a disaster in part because it’s been so politicized. It is overly partisan,” Wilson said.
He’s instead proposing a new commission that’s composed of non-partisan professionals from different backgrounds.
“If you’re hiring someone for your law firm, or for your restaurant, you don’t ask their political affiliation, you ask them if they’re good at their job.”
Over the past several years, a number of elected officials, including the governor, have said that JCOPE needs an overhaul, but it’s not clear what the future of the commission holds in the long term.
Other parts of Wilson’s plan include independent redistricting to avoid gerrymandering for either party, allowing independent voters to participate in primaries, increased transparency for campaign finances, and increased election security.
Wilson is competing in a primary for the Republican nomination against Rep. Lee Zeldin, the party’s favorite; Andrew Giuliani, son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani; and former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino.
The primary will be held on June 28.