There’s going to be a change at the top in the state’s Republican Party.
Erie County GOP Chair Nick Langworthy has gathered the support of the majority of county chairs and will be replacing Ed Cox in July. The two met with the media Tuesday to talk about the transition.
On the surface, it is an amicable change of leadership.
Cox, who oversaw the party for the past 10 years and is the son-in-law of former President Richard Nixon, said he’s pleased with his new position as part of a team to help finance President Donald Trump’s re-election effort.
“I’m somehow attracted to presidential politics,” said Cox, who added that Nixon’s campaign in 1968 realigned the country and that Trump’s win in 2016 was a major upset.
Under Cox’s tenure, the party did not win an election for statewide office. Republicans have not held a major statewide elected office since 2006, when former Gov. George Pataki decided not to seek a fourth term.
Last November, the GOP lost its hold on the state Senate by a significant margin and now has just 23 members, compared to the 38 in the Democratic leadership conference.
Despite that, Langworthy did not criticize Cox or his leadership skills, and he thanked him for his dedication to the party. He instead spoke of a game plan to grow the GOP in New York, and he promised to show a “new fighting spirit” starting with the state Senate races next year.
“We lost this majority in one election,” Langworthy said. “I think we can gain this majority back in one election.”
Sen. Michael Gianaris is chair of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and helped oversee many of the Democratic senators’ victories last November. He doesn’t give the GOP much of a chance in making gains in 2020.
“He’s half right -- they did lose the election,” Gianaris said. “Where he’s wrong is the possibility that they might take it back.”
Gianaris said he expects a “huge Democratic vote” in 2020, in response to Trump being at the top of the ticket.
Republicans face an uphill battle to win seats in New York. Trump is deeply unpopular in the state, and GOP membership in New York has been in decline for decades.
Langworthy, who worked for former western New York Congressman Tom Reynolds and supported Carl Paladino for governor in 2010, said he knows that his first task is boosting enrollment in the Republican Party.
But he said he sees a path to winning races, and it’s based on economic issues, like lowering taxes in the state, which are among the highest in the nation. He said that strategy has been successful in winning several recent elections in Erie County, where Republicans are outnumbered.
And Langworthy said Trump “is much more popular than people think.”
“This is going to be a pocketbook election, and the Trump economy is on fire,” Langworthy said.
The new GOP chair said his ultimate aim is to mount a serious challenge to Democrats for the governor’s race in 2022.
“My mission and goal is to get us to the point where a Republican occupies the second floor of the state Capitol,” said Langworthy, referring to the floor that houses the executive chamber in the state Capitol.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has not said whether he intends to seek a fourth term, but he is actively raising money for his campaign fund.
A senior adviser to Cuomo, Rich Azzopardi, is skeptical of the GOP’s chances.
“My goal is also to be taller and a shortstop for the Mets,” Azzopardi quipped.
Republican leaders in the Legislature, who are in the minority in both houses, said they are excited about having Langworthy in charge. Senate GOP Leader John Flanagan said in a statement that he looks forward to working with the new chair to counter what he said are “radical New York City Democrats” in the Legislature.
Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb said “it’s time for a change” in party leadership, and he believes that Langworthy will rebuild and “revitalize” the party.
Langworthy officially takes over in July, when a formal vote will be held by party membership. He and Cox said they intend to work together until then.
Langworthy, at 38, will be the youngest GOP chair in state history. He said he plans to get younger people and women more involved in the party, and he wants to make it more ethnically diverse.