Reprinted with permission by the Times Union
ALBANY – A day after forming a committee he says is only exploratory, Congressman Chris Gibson (R-19th) sounded like a full-fledged gubernatorial candidate on Tuesday.
In a news conference ahead of a flight to Washington for the day’s business, the representative from Kinderhook detailed a four-point approach he says could win the day in 2018, even if Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues prolific fundraising that has made him unbeatable in the past two elections.
Mr. Gibson maintains power over education policy should be returned to the local level, gun control should be rethought to emphasize safety without trampling on the Second Amendment, the state’s economy needs to be revamped through tax cuts and new policies, and ethics must be addressed from the top down through example.
His appearance as a candidate goes beyond a policy plan, though.
Mr. Gibson uses phrases like “reality-based assessment” when referring to what policies actually could get done with a Democratic-held Assembly. He criticizes state government in Albany’s own lingo (he decried the so-called “three men in a room” process). He is apt to compare governmental leadership to the way in which he led troops during his time in the Army.
And he is taking a page out of the traditional Republican playbook, highlighting that a recent study showed New York is 50th out of 50 states in terms of tax burden.
Yet Gibson’s more formal interest in running for governor (he has said repeatedly in the past year he is considering a run) comes more than two years ahead of the 2018 election, far too early to begin campaigning in earnest.
“I think this state is starving for truth and leadership,” he said. “Given my background, I’ve seen the human condition under some of the most austere and difficult circumstances imaginable, led men and women in combat, had to bring people together to get hard things done. In the Congress I have continued with that approach, using the appropriate judgement and temperament to get things done.”
Mr. Gibson has studied more than just his polished talking points, it would seem. He detailed election scenarios and analyzed where he needs to drive turnout to be competitive in 2-to-1 Democratic New York.
While the upstate vote must be there to win, Mr. Gibson also expressed confidence in his appeal to voters in even more heavily Democratic New York City, where Gov. Cuomo outpaced Republican Rob Astorino (who hasn’t ruled out his own 2018 bid) in 2014 by roughly 600,000 votes.
“We’ve got to do better getting our base out,” Mr. Gibson said, citing the fact that not even 50 percent of city Republican turned out. He also cited his upbringing in a working class family as a way to appeal to union members. He cited his support of the Zadroga Act. He was unabashed that his military service is a way to appeal to veterans regardless of party.
Even visitors to the new Gibson for New York website are greeted by an image of the congressman overlaid on an image of the Manhattan Bridge. Header photos on other pages depict the Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan from the Brooklyn waterfront.
“When you look at New York City, and the fact that we’re staring earlier and the fact that I’m going to get help in the city reaching communities that in the past we haven’t had support (in), I think you can see that we certainly will grow on the 18 percent, which was the total amount of the vote we got in New York City in 2014,” he said.
Mr. Gibson is quick to point out he has been ranked as one of the most bipartisan lawmakers in Washington. One of his most frequently used talking points is the need to put “conserve” back in “conservative” a nod to his recognition of the impacts man has had on climate change, breaking many national Republicans.
Even with that moderate lean, Mr. Gibson goes into his “exploration” period appearing to have the support of some of the state’s more conservative figures. Assemblyman Bill Nojay, R-Pittsford, who has been organizing for Donald Trump in New York, said in a Monday statement, “A Governor Gibson would reestablish New York as the Empire State, a place where jobs will grow and families can thrive.”
A Cuomo campaign spokesman declined to comment on Gibson’s more formal foray into gubernatorial politics.