News 12’s Tara Rosenblum is taking a look at the candidates hoping to become the next governor of New York, and Thursday’s focus turns to Republican Harry Wilson.
The Scarsdale businessman is the only candidate self-funding his gubernatorial campaign.Wilson says he didn’t grow up speaking English, so News 12 asked the father of four to take a trip down memory lane, recalling life as a working-class kid in a Greek immigrant household upstate.
“My dad was a bartender; my mom was a sewing machine operator, so yes, economically challenged. But my parents did everything to help my sister and I have a wonderful life,” he said.
When Wilson was younger, he says he had some serious health problems.
“When I was born, my legs were all messed up. I had these heavy braces on my legs. The doctors told my mom I’d never be able to walk,” he said.
Wilson also suffered third-degree burns in a kitchen accident but overcame that adversity to become captain and MVP of his high school cross-country team, and later a student at Harvard.
“You know my parents were incredible. They always looked out for us. They always said just keep putting one foot in front of the other and just keep working hard,” he said.
It was advice he took to heart, later creating one of the nation’s top corporate turnaround companies and even coming to the rescue of one of the largest nursing home chains in the country last year.
Wilson says he hopes to fix New York’s financial woes, using the same business savvy he’s put to use to rescuing struggling corporations.
“When I go into these situations, they are really dire. And that by the way, I think that’s a great analogy for the state. You look at it and people say, well it can’t be fixed. But I just know through establishing a plan, developing a clear vision … it has worked in my personal life and it’s worked in my business life. And I believe it’ll work well in New York state,” he said.
A Bloomberg-style politician, Wilson wants to tackle the Empire State’s sky-high property taxes and spiking crime. But Wilson does not believe Rep. Lee Zeldin, the official GOP designee, is the right person for the job.
“He has served in office for most last 15 years he hasn’t accomplished anything for the state of New York. He’s never shown the ability to win crossover votes…In the last 20 years, only one person who’s run statewide was able to do that – that was me,” he said.
Wilson is referring to his narrow loss in 2010 to Democratic state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. It’s the closest any Republican has come to winning statewide office in the past two decades. No one else who has run in the last four years came within 10 points in any race.