Earlier this year, Marc Molinaro officially announced his gubernatorial bid to unseat New York Gov Andrew Cuomo. The Republican Dutchess County Executive had initially declined to run for governor in January, but a social media campaign initiated by lawmakers who wanted an alternative to Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco made him change his mind.
As the gubernatorial race heats up, here are a few things to know about the 42-year-old politician.
Background in Politics
Molinaro comes from possibly the humblest background of any major party candidate for governor of New York in recent years. Unlike Cuomo, his father was not a governor. He also did not attend an Ivy League school like the three chief executives who came before Cuomo.
Instead, Molinaro went to public schools and grew up on food stamps. He also went to a community college where he earned his associate’s degree. If he wins the elections, he would be the first New York governor to not have a bachelor’s degree since Al Smith in the 1920s.
Speaking with Newsday, Molinaro said he takes pride in calling himself an “ordinary New Yorker” because he knows “what it means to struggle.”
Despite his modest upbringing, Molinaro got an early start at politics. He was elected a Tivoli trustee in 1994 before being named as mayor just a year later. He assumed the position at 19 – the youngest in the United States during that time.
Tivoli citizens apparently saw an effective leader in their teenage mayor, so Molinaro was re-elected for five times. He later served in the Dutchess County Legislature for three terms before being elected to the New York State Assembly in 2006. At the age of 36, he was named Dutchess County executive in 2011.
The Battle against Cuomo
Election Day is on Tuesday and the race for New York governor appears to be getting tighter than ever. Republican party nominee Molinaro has an uphill battle to fight, considering his opponent’s long track record as governor in the state of new york. Cuomo assumed office in January 2011, with Democrat Kathy Hochul as the current lieutenant governor.
Although Molinaro has decided to distance himself from Donald Trump, the Cuomo campaign constantly calls him a “Trump Mini-Me.” Molinaro fired back at Cuomo’s team, saying they are just trying to falsely label him as a strict conservative who does not match the state government of New York’s views.
According to Molinaro, he is nowhere near president Trump when it comes to dealing with conflicting views. He insisted that he’s actually open to accept contrasting opinions than his rival.
In September, ex-gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon criticized Cuomo for claiming he resists the Trump agenda. The former actress said it’s hard to believe he is anti-Trump because he received $64,000 worth of donations from the business magnate from 2001 until 2009 for his previous campaign.
Stances on Controversial Issues
Molinaro voted for Cuomo’s tax deal that extended the so-called “millionaires’ tax” back in 2011. The legislation was only a section of the bill but it paved the way to a higher tax bracket for New York residents in the highest-income class. It reduced the rate for high-income earners but set it more than it would have been had the previous rate expired.
Additionally, Molinaro voted for Cuomo’s 2 percent limit on the increase of property tax. It was aimed at curbing rising property taxes, which made it popular for fiscal conservatives.
When he assumed office as Dutchess County executive in 2012, Molinaro inherited a bloated government, $40 million deficit and low bond rating. He was able to turn things around since then – getting rid of the high deficit and leaving Dutchess County with a $20 million surplus. Aside from lowering his county’s tax rate for five years in a row, he also cut the number of county employees. This gave the county one of the highest bond ratings in New York, which means it can now borrow money with low-interest rates.
Molinaro now wants to bring all of those benefits to the state. One of his biggest plans: making the state take over Medicaid. The state and the federal government currently provide funds for Medicaid, the health insurance for low-income citizens. However, the state still passes a chunk of its share of costs to its counties.
When it comes to mental health, Molinaro has also been outspoken about initiatives supporting it and addressed the need to end the opioid epidemic.
Molinaro and Cuomo went on their first and likely only debate last month to discuss key issues in the state and in the country. The hour-long debate was taped at the CBS 2 Studio in New York City.
When he was accused of opposing abortion, Molinaro clarified that he believed Roe v. Wade is “settled law.” He also defended his former position on same-sex marriage, saying it “was the same as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton at the time,” but that he was one of the people who celebrated when it was legalized.
Support from New York Republicans
Over the weekend, Molinaro spent his day visiting the Southern Tier with the region’s GOP politicians. His speech was hinged on attacking Governor Cuomo, stressing that the two-term Democrat has neglected the manufacturing industry of the Southern Tier.
“He’s left us with no business,” he told locals. “He’s left us with jobs leaving the state of New York, people leaving the state of New York.”
Cuomo is known for being a forceful builder and doer. His long career in politics made him one of the politicians considered as a future presidential contender. Unfortunately, New York
Cuomo is polished and forceful, a builder and a doer. He’s in the conversation as a presidential contender. But under his leadership, New York’s progress has been uneven.
Since 2010, a million New Yorkers have decided to leave the state for good. The Upstate’s economic recovery after the 2009 recession has lagged far behind the country’s – with Central New York’s being behind even more.
Some of the billions of funds dedicated for economic development were left to corrupt, underperforming or poorly-planned projects. Unsatisfied New Yorkers say Cuomo is blind to corruption and his fight for ethics reform has always been half-hearted. This is why many believe Molinaro will bring them the change they’ve been looking for in New York.
Featured image: Marc Molinaro and his son during a campaign rally. Credit: Facebook/MarcMolinaroNY