‘Hype for Harry’ continues leading up to GOP primary

Via Scarsdale News

Longtime Scarsdale resident Harry Wilson may have entered the New York State gubernatorial race late — just four months ago on Feb. 22 — but he believes he is “surging” throughout the state as potential voters learn more about him as a political “outsider” in advance of the Republican primary Tuesday, June 28.

Wilson’s platform is a fiscally Conservative — a Ronald Reagan Republican — focused on decreasing the cost of living in New York by reducing income and payroll taxes by 20%, taking advantage of natural gas resources within the state to help lower energy costs, rolling back ineffective Democratic policies and spending that has driven up the state’s budget — the $3,000-$5,000 it would “put in the pockets of middle class families” each year would be a “total game-changer” — and cracking down on crime by supporting police departments, removing district attorneys who don’t strictly prosecute criminals and ending cashless bail.

And among Wilson’s most passionate supporters are some of his neighbors.

While Wilson was participating in three debates over eight days from June 13 to June 21, in addition to continuing his statewide barnstorming tour, his hometown supporters were continuing an old-school campaign on the ground by making phone calls and handing out fliers at local train stations during morning and evening commuting hours.

Scarsdale’s Debby Franco was part of the “Train Brigade” Wednesday morning, June 22, at Scarsdale train station along with Wilson’s wife, Eva Romas Wilson, a 1989 Scarsdale High School graduate. The evening prior, Eva and Scarsdale’s Tara Greco had been at the Hartsdale station, with other local train station stops scheduled later in the week.

“It’s fun to get the hype going,” Franco said. “Debby Franco is all about the hype! I always text to Eva, ‘Hype for Harry.’ Face to face is what I like to do. That’s where I come in. It’s grassroots. Harry can turn this state around. He’s a businessman and the other candidates don’t have the background he does. He’s a proven man with Yahoo, G.M. [General Motors]. He’s proven himself with these gigantic companies and now they’re profitable and he can do that for New York.

Franco, who has known the Wilsons for 13 years, said she’s tired of the status quo of politics. “His experience in business and turning around companies really is the main factor that I’m looking at,” she said. “He is also pro police, [he] backs the police, and this is a big concern of mine.”

Scarsdale resident Liz Brew has known the Wilsons for 18 years — their older daughters are the same age — and she got involved in a small way back in 2010 when Wilson ran for NY state comptroller and came closer than any Republican in the past 20 years to taking a statewide office from a Democrat. Brew crossed party lines to support Wilson then, and 12 years later she’s doing it again.

“I think people traditionally vote on the party line, that they stick with their party,” Brew said. “Most of the calls I’ve done, people have their decision kind of made who they are going to vote for, so it’s been good to be able to have conversations with people and tell them more about Harry, why I think Harry’s the right person for this job. As he says, he’s not a career politician, so I think putting politics aside and looking at who can do the job, Harry’s the one
who can do the job.”

Scarsdale’s J.T. Greco, Tara’s husband, is another who has never been involved in a campaign before. He was thrilled when Wilson decided to run, which gave him the opportunity to make an impact by lending a hand and spreading the word about Wilson.

“I think he’s a very honorable and trustworthy and hard-working person,” Greco said. “When you know people like that, and they’re looking to do something they’re passionate about, as a friend or an associate you’re always willing to help out … whether it’s part of their job or their life or coaching. I would help Harry with anything he asked, and he didn’t ask, but I knew this was something he was passionate about. To the extent I can help I’m happy to.”

Greco said there are “real problems to solve” in New York, illustrated in part by the outmigration from New York, which is higher than other states and has led to a population decrease.

“Without even getting into party politics, there have been a number of things that have been happening in Albany for a long time with politicians and I think it would be great to have someone who is not a politician come in who has worked really hard about fixing things, a real problem solver, a hard worker,” he said. “We need an outsider, someone who is not a politician or [hasn’t] been in Albany his whole life, who has a proven track record of turning things around and fixing things. There’s a lot of things that need fixing. New York’s not all bad, but … a fresh set of eyes and problem-solving, hard-working hands would be really good and refreshing.”

Eva said she is enjoying the local community outreach with her friends and family members, including her and Wilson’s four daughters, ages 13-20.

“They’re not happy with how the state of New York has been and they’re thankful their dad is stepping up and they know he has it in him to turn around the state,” Eva said. “He’s got the skillset, but he also has the desire. He wants to help. He really does. His mom and dad came to this country and they didn’t have very much. They gave him everything he needed and he went on to college and had a successful career and he truly just wants to give back. That’s his main motivation. The girls know that … and so do his friends.”

Wilson wants to bring back the New York he knew growing up in upstate Johnstown, where he says opportunity abounded and the American Dream was still attainable for those who worked hard. Not knowing English, his parents emigrated from Greece and worked to give the family a better life. The values they instilled in Wilson and the opportunities they gave him for a great education led him to become a turnaround expert for corporations.

“New York has changed, so he would love to bring it back to that,” Eva said. “He doesn’t think that he’s any different from any kid out there. He had an opportunity and New York can be like that again. That’s why I’m out here. That’s why our friends are here. New York needs to change and we need an outsider, a nonpolitician to fix it.”

“It’s just so humbling and I’m so grateful to have such great friends and family who are so supportive,” he said. “I’ve seen the best of people who have rallied around trying to make the state a better place. One of the great things about Scarsdale is people come to our community and want to live in a great community where people care about their families and their kids … that same sentiment is what’s motivated a lot of our friends to work on a campaign where they’ve never worked in politics before.

“What we really want to do is … to redefine what politics is about. It should not be about fighting the other side and just attacking and not delivering. It should be about people making a difference that matters in people’s lives. That’s been my message from the beginning and that’s why people are supporting us from all walks of life. We’re just trying to get that out there to keep growing our coalition and hopefully win in November and fix the state.”

The local group is part of a statewide network that had previously helped attain nearly triple the required 13,000 signatures necessary to get on the primary ballot — the Wilson campaign went above and beyond and got 36,000 signatures — along with frontrunner Rep. Lee Zeldin, a former state senator and current congressman from Long Island; two-term Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who has lost his last three elections; and Andrew Giuliani, son of Rudy Giuliani, former special assistant to then-President Donald Trump.

Local support is not coming from the Scarsdale Republican Town Committee, which announced Monday it was endorsing Astorino. According to Chairman Linda Killian in a letter to the Inquirer, the following criteria was used to pick between the four “highly qualified” candidates:

· Does the candidate have strong principles and has he shown that he fights for those principles?
· Does the candidate have a track record of success in public service or private enterprise?
· Does the candidate have an achievable plan for turning around New York State that he can clearly articulate?
· Does the candidate have an in-depth understanding of the intricacies of New York politics and what it’s going to take for a Republican governor to persuade a Democrat-controlled legislature to buy into his agenda?
· Will the candidate be able to attract Democratic voters to cross over party lines and convince enough Independent voters?

After a “number of discussions,” Killian wrote “only” Astorino “meets all these standards” based on his eight years as Westchester County executive from 2010-17.

“He promised to keep taxes down and did it, promised to protect Westchester’s suburbs from HUD’s efforts to eliminate home rule on zoning and did it, negotiated successfully with a Democratic-controlled County Board of Legislators, has a clear plan for turning around New York, understands the issues because he’s lived with them, and has a proven track record of attracting Democratic and Independent voters in Westchester County,” Killian wrote.

Wilson said the endorsement was disappointing because the local committee “wouldn’t even meet” with him.

“I think that’s anti-Democratic and wrong,” Wilson said. “I’m going to have a lot more Republican support in town than any other candidate, but it’s a shame that people who are party insiders aren’t even willing to meet to hear out other candidates, even one of their neighbors. I think that’s all you need to know about politics.

“The Republican party has not grown in 30 years. We have the same number of Republicans today as we had when George Pataki was first elected in 1994. It’s because we have leaders who don’t understand we need to grow the party by embracing and reaching out to more people. That’s why we keep losing.”

Wilson said he has no desire to hold office or be a politician, but he believes he can “fix the state.”

“That’s what we desperately need,” he said. “As I get out there and talk to people, people are desperate for a change, especially in more challenged communities. We’re a bit insulated in Scarsdale from the challenges of the state, but crime, taxes and cost of living are really hurting middle class, working class families across the state. When I go out there and meet people, it just validates everything we’re trying to do and how important it is.”

Across the state Wilson is finding residents who are “so disenchanted with politics because they feel both parties have failed them that they tune out politics,” so he’s been explaining his background, his upbringing and his professional accomplishments and how those experiences can be used to serve as governor.

“As people get to know me, get to know what I’m trying to do, I think they really embrace that, but there’s an immediate apathy or cynicism … because politicians on both sides of the aisle really failed people in this state for far too long,” Wilson said.

The “long odds” Wilson has had in turning companies around — those he was told could not be turned around — are much like the state, he said. When hiring, he thinks actions speak louder than words, and he knows that’s true of his professional career.

“As people understand that I’ve proven the ability to fix complicated, messy situations and work across competing stakeholders, they realize that I can actually make a big difference as governor,” he said. “For people who know about us, we have an overwhelming lead. It’s just breaking through so that enough people know about us … [and] enough people vote for us on Tuesday.”

Having the shortest campaign and being the lesser-known name didn’t help Wilson, but he never harped on either as being a negative. “Most people aren’t going to pay attention to the race until late no matter what time you start,” Wilson said. “It hurt a little bit I’d say, but we knew that going into it. We had to assess if we could catch up. We felt at the beginning we could and we have. It’s really about being in the position to catch those folks that are deciding late in the final week.”

After the three debates, Wilson stayed upstate in Buffalo before making his way downstate to continue to reach as many voters as possible before the primary. Every two years Wilson hears that it’s “the most important election ever.” This race is critical, he said.

“I’m not a politician, but I turned my life upside down to do this because I really do believe this is, in New York State, a once-in-a-generation opportunity to win and fix the state,” he said. “It’s not just some politician looking to the next electoral cycle, it’s someone who actually voted with his feet and his pocketbook to do everything possible to win.”

The four months of the campaign have “validated” Wilson’s choice and he believes he is the only one with a proven track record who can get the votes to defeat current Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul.

“I’m incredibly grateful I decided to get into the race and I’m incredibly grateful for the support we’ve gotten,” he said. “We’re surging across the state at the right time. I hope people turn out and vote Tuesday so we can win the primary and move on to the general election.”

Four-man debates

While the four candidates see eye to eye on topics like making New York more affordable, tapping into New York’s natural gas supply, ending all COVID-19 mandates and being tough on criminals, there are some issues on which they differ. Wilson is not running a social issues campaign — Wilson is the only pro-choice candidate among the four Republicans and said he supports “limiting government” — and he was attacked by Zeldin as someone who should be involved in a Democratic party debate against Hochul, who replaced incumbent Andrew Cuomo amid his sexual harassment scandal in August.

“I am a Reagan Conservative, I’ve been one since I was a little kid. My dog is named after Reagan. My daughter’s middle name is Reagan. I have fought for conservative principles my whole life, from a college Republican to running for state comptroller when I was a 2010 nominee and I won more votes and got closest to winning statewide than any Republican in the last 20 years running on a fiscally conservative platform.”

During the three Republican debates on CBS, NY1 and Newsmax, it seemed like everyone was against Zeldin, with Wilson focused on the “Cuomo Clone” and Cuomo’s “wingman,” while Zeldin put his energy toward blasting “Never Trumper”/“rhino”/two-time Obama administration appointee Wilson and “Rolex Rob” Astorino, who has lost his last three elections. Giuliani is the lone unvaccinated candidate and participated virtually in the first two debates due to vaccine mandates at the venues.

Due to state and national COVID-19 mandates for masks and vaccinations, many workers lost their jobs for noncompliance. All of the candidates said they would rehire all city and state workers and make amends. In the first debate, Zeldin blasted Wilson for firing employees over vaccinations. Wilson was running Genesis Healthcare at the time and responded that two-thirds of the company’s revenue comes from Medicare and Medicaid, and he had to “deal with” President Joe Biden’s nursing home employee vaccine mandate.

“That’s exactly what we did,” Wilson said in the debate. “We did it safely and fairly and we had incredible care for our patients. Forty-thousand employees and 20,000 patients that we took very close care of and because of that experience what Mr. Zeldin clearly does not understand when I’m governor I will have a full investigation of Gov. Cuomo and his misdeeds in the nursing home scandal and his directive. We will prosecute him and anyone else to the fullest extent of the law and we will make full restitution to the families that were
hurt by his bad policies.”

When it to comes to guns and criminals, the mentally ill and purveyors of hate, gun owner Wilson said: “Those are the people we should be cracking down on. Instead of doing the hard work of that, the Democrats in Albany are blaming and attacking the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

When asked if gun violence or crime has personally impacted him, Wilson said that the previous Thursday night, his cousin’s father was stabbed to death in his backyard upstate by someone who was out on cashless bail after committing two recent assaults. “The biggest problem in the policy debate is people in elected office do not spend enough time thinking about victims,” Wilson said. “They think about the criminals — they don’t spend enough time
thinking about victims.”

Wilson called education “the great equalizer” and said parents need to have more ownership over what is being taught and that civics education should return to schools, which need a “curricular reboot” that will last three to five years to counter all that was lost with “bad policies” associated with COVID-19 school shutdowns.

“We will be, one year from today, a safer, more prosperous, more affordable state to live and raise our families in,” Wilson said.

When asked by Newsmax’s Eric Bolling if each candidate will go on to endorse the primary winner, Wilson, Giuliani and Astorino responded, “Yes,” immediately, while Zeldin talked about how he isn’t going to lose but eventually said he would support the winner.

Many experts and political analysts said as far back as when Wilson was considering running that he was the party’s best chance at beating a Democrat in the Nov. 8 general election, but that winning the primary would be tough against three better-known names. That’s still true today, and it did make Wilson chuckle as he said many people have made that point to him.

“It’s so hard for a Republican to win in New York, but a lot of people have felt that the primary may be more challenging,” Wilson said. “I think they’re both challenging — and I want to be very clear about that. With the primary, I did have the additional burden of a short window, but at the end of the day my message is the same for all voters, which is we’re going to deliver a 20% income tax and property tax cut, we’re going to cut regulations that drive up the cost of living, and we’re going to fight crime. Those three things are the things that matter most to New Yorkers and we’re going to keep bringing those points, whether it’s a primary voter or a general election voter, until we are hopefully successful.