By JOE MAHONEY
The Daily Star
---- — FLY CREEK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo has alienated many New York voters by aggressively pursuing controversial gun control legislation and will be “vulnerable” if he runs for re-election next year, Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, said Thursday.
Gibson, after an impressive victory in November in his bid for a second term in the House, was recently named by state GOP Chairman Edward Cox as one of five Republican officeholders considering a run for New York governor in 2014.
Asked whether he might get into a toe-to-toe contest with Cuomo next year, Gibson said he is not ruling out running for statewide office but is more likely to be a strong supporter of his party’s choice to take on Cuomo.
Gibson ticked off a list of reasons why he thinks many voters are now sour on Cuomo to the point they will pull the lever for his opponent next year.
“I do believe that Governor Cuomo is going to be vulnerable,” he told The Daily Star during a stop in the hamlet of Fly Creek on Thursday afternoon. “I know there are some who think he will not be. But my question is: Why all the commercials on television?”
He was referring to ads running statewide that hail Cuomo’s $135 billion state budget.
“If you take a look at the PR (public relations) program that is going on, and then look at our own economy, in relation to the national economy, you see that we are still struggling in New York,” Gibson said.
Gibson also argued that Cuomo turned off many voters by pushing the NY SAFE Act through the Legislature. The congressman predicted that the multifaceted gun-control measure’s key provisions will be struck down as unconstitutional. About 50 county legislatures have passed resolutions criticizing the SAFE Act.
“The so-called SAFE Act targets law-abiding citizens,” Gibson said. “New Yorkers can’t be proud of the way that was done, rushing that thing, passing it in the middle of the night.”
He said a better approach to responding to violence would be a comprehensive evaluation of the mental-health system.
Gibson also took issue with the way Cuomo “treats people.”
He contended many Democrats and Republicans alike are upset with the way Cuomo’s administration chastised Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner after she wrote a newspaper opinion article criticizing the state budget’s effect on municipalities. He also said the Cuomo administration was heavy-handed in forcing state Department of Transportation worker Mike Fayette out of a 30-year career simply because he spoke to a newspaper reporter without authorization from the administration.
Gibson’s critique of Cuomo was quickly dismissed by Otsego County Democratic Chairman Richard Abbate.
“We don’t feel that Andrew Cuomo is in any kind of jeopardy,” he said.
“We are very proud of the work he is doing, and we are looking forward to his re-election.”
While the Otsego County Democratic Committee has called for significant amendments to the SAFE Act, Abbate thanked the governor “for opening up a dialogue” on gun violence in the aftermath of the December school massacre in Newtown, Conn.
“Chris Gibson has been a good congressman, but I don’t think he’s ready to take on Andrew Cuomo at this point,” Abbate said.
On another topic, Gibson commended the way President Obama has responded to the threat of war from the government of North Korea, saying the display of military force by the United States as well as ongoing efforts at diplomatic engagement are appropriate.
He said he also remains opposed to same-sex marriage while continuing to support the right of same-sex couples to have civil unions. According to The Washington Post, only four GOP members of Congress — one of them Rep. Richard Hanna, R-Barneveld, are advocating the right of same-sex couples to marry.
In addition to Gibson, the other four Republicans mentioned by Cox as potential challengers are Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards; Harry Wilson, a Fulton County native who ran unsuccessfully for state comptroller in 2010; Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, and Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro.
Cuomo’s campaign committee reported in January it had $22.5 million to use for a 2014 campaign.