The Republican roster of candidates seeking the party’s nomination for governor grew wider Tuesday, with the entrance of businessman Harry Wilson, who’s come closer than anyone else in his party to winning statewide office in the last two decades.
When Wilson last ran for public office in 2010, he lost his challenge to State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli by about 200,000 votes — a narrow defeat in statewide politics.
Wilson has been courted for a run in the last few cycles from some of the state’s Republicans, who’ve said he would be the party’s best shot at winning statewide office. Wilson considered a run for governor in 2018, but ultimately decided against it.
In a video released Tuesday, Wilson said he would focus on cost of living, crime, and economic development in his campaign for governor.
“The high taxes and failed policies pushed by Hochul, Cuomo and the Albany politicians have hurt communities like this all over the state,” Wilson said.
He framed his campaign in the video as a challenge to the political establishment and “career politicians,” pledging to shake up Albany’s way of doing business.
Wilson said he would withhold pay from lawmakers if they “fail to let us turn New York around,” though salaries for the state Legislature can only be put on hold if they fail to pass a state budget by the end of March.
He’ll now enter the primary for the Republican nomination for governor. The field is already packed, with Rep. Lee Zeldin, Andrew Giuliani, former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, and Lewis County Sheriff Mike Carpinelli already declared.
Zeldin is considered the frontrunner, earning the party’s blessing as its presumptive nominee through a vote of county chairs last summer.
Each of the declared Republican candidates have ground to make up — ahead of both the primary and the general election.
A new poll from the Siena Research Institute released on Tuesday found that 62% of voters don’t know who Zeldin is, for example. And among Republicans who know him, about a third view him unfavorably, according to the poll.
It’s the same with Astorino, with 67% of voters — and Republicans — reporting through the poll that they don’t know who he is.
Giuliani has the advantage of name recognition. Only a quarter of Republicans said they didn’t know who he is, but about half of those asked view him favorably, the poll said. But, among voters from all parties, Giuliani’s favorability sits at 28%.
Wilson wasn’t included in the poll, given that he entered the race the morning it was released.
Republicans will gather in Nassau County next week for their state nominating convention, where they’ll pick their designated nominee for governor.
It’s expected to go to Zeldin, which would give him a spot on the primary ballot in June without petitioning. Other candidates could get on the ballot at the convention as well if they’re able to garner 25% of the vote from delegates.
It’s unclear, for now, how Wilson’s entrance to the race could change things at the convention, and beyond into the primary.
When he ran for state comptroller, he was able to spend a few million dollars of his own money on his campaign. He didn’t say if he would self-finance against for this race.
Wilson worked in the financial services sector at the start of his career, before managing a hedge fund that earned him a small fortune. He’s now the CEO of the MAEVA Group, a financial services advisory company in Westchester County, where he lives.
The Conservative Party of New York State didn’t take kindly to Wilson’s announcement Tuesday, saying they’d continue to back Zeldin in the race for governor.
“Mr. Wilson’s decision to enter this race just days before the Conservative and Republican Party conventions — after remaining politically dormant for the past 12 years — also strikes us as more destructive than constructive,” said Conservative Party Chair Gerard Kassar. “Where has he been all these years?”
The primary will be held on June 28.