The State Republican Party is kicking off its convention today in Westchester – as President Obama and Gov. Cuomo both also descend on the county to talk up infrastructure improvements in front of the Tappan Zee Bridge.
Getting attention is the challenge for the GOP which –with the exception of the State Senate – has been on the outside looking in since George Pataki left Albany in January of 2007. While seven years hardly seems an eternity, it gets a little longer when you realize that no Republican has won a statewide election since Pataki's final victory in 2002 and that no GOP newcomer has won over voters since Pataki's first win in 1994 along with Dennis Vacco for State Attorney General. The shutout on the presidential level now goes back 30 years to 1984 when Ronald Reagan won 49 states in his re-election bid.
This is the heady task facing Rob Astorino, the telegenic Westchester County Executive who is set to face off against Cuomo in November. While Astorino seems far friendlier than the baseball bat of Carl Paladino who was trounced by Cuomo in 2010, he faces some tough obstacles of his own. He has little campaign cash and can be hit hard on social issues where he has conservative stances including gun control, gay marriage, and abortion rights. While Astorino successfully navigated his way to victory in a county executive's race despite those positions, it's a different matter when voters have to consider casting their ballots for their future governor.
Like the national party, New York Republicans are facing a demographic timebomb that is only being delayed by gerrymandering. Upstate New York – once the bastion of Republicanism – is losing its population while the more Democratic-leaning downstate continues to grow. In addition, New York City's suburbs which used to vote "Mad Men" Republican are also becoming more and more Democratic with former liberal city voters spreading their wings to Long Island and Westchester. The state is also continuing to become more diverse with black and Latino voters – two groups that vote heavily Democratic – expanding their power.
But I don't want to just be a party pooper. It will be interesting to see what the GOP does to try to galvanize in the face of their worst nightmare – a Cuomo running things in Albany. Today and tomorrow, NY1 will be bringing you plenty of live coverage from the convention, including tonight's "Inside City Hall." The next election season is already well underway.