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Surprises Expected When GOP Convention Kicks Off On L.I. Wednesday

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Looking to keep control in Albany, state Republicans are gathering on Long Island Wednesday and Thursday for their statewide convention. But unlike their Democrats, the state GOP has no clear front runner in any of the big races. NY1’s Rita Nissan filed this report.

Republican Party Chairman Stephen Minarik got a final walkthrough Tuesday at Hofstra University, where the state GOP Convention will take place.

“It's kind exciting. I think we’ll have a very competitive convention [with] lots of different candidates,” he said. “Delegates are going to have a good time, I think.”

Unlike the Democrats in Buffalo, “unified” isn't a word anyone is using to describe the GOP, especially in the race for governor.

Minarik's candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, hasn't been able to lock up the nomination. Former State Assembly Minority Leader John Faso has mounted a serious fight and he has the crucial Conservative Party backing.

Weld has been trying to paint Faso as too conservative for New York. The two have been going at it for weeks.

“I’m feeling great, enthusiastic, certainly anticipating the convention and the meeting,” said Faso. “It’s the culmination of many months of work, and so I’m optimistic and hopeful.”

“I've been on the phone constantly, political calls and raising money. I do think the convention is going to be very close, which is unusual for conventions these degenerate days,” said Weld.

Candidates need 25 percent of the delegates vote to get an automatic spot on the primary ballot and avoid a costly petition process. The candidate who wins more than 50 percent becomes the party's designee, which can help a candidate's image.

Some 446 delegates from across the state will decide which direction the Republican Party should go in. At the Garden City Hotel, delegates and candidates began checking in Tuesday. This is where they're all staying and where the receptions will take place.

NY1 caught up with U.S. Senate candidate K.T. McFarland. The former Pentagon official is battling former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer. Polls show they don't stand a chance against the Democratic incumbent, Hillary Clinton.

McFarland says a primary is actually a good thing.

“Let people come out and make their case first to the party, and then to the public. It's the best and the most healthy thing that could happen to the party and to the State of New York,” she said.

That's the positive spin Republicans have been trying to put on their convention.

- Rita Nissan

NY1 will provide ongoing coverage of the state Democratic and Republican conventions this week, including special editions of "Inside City Hall" nightly at 7 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
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