Erie County Republicans are buzzing about the monthly GOP roundtable hosted by chairman Nick Langworthy on Saturday. State Sen. Mark Grisanti again got a frosty reception, but it was far from the bashing he got over the SAFE Act the last time he attended a county party roundtable.
Still, wags are going wild over the Senator's answer to a polite but pointed question from Lackawanna GOP chair Dennis Mulqueen. The popular chairman seized the Q&A portion of Sen. Grisanti's presentation to ask if he would endorse the Republican candidate for governor of New York. Curiously, Sen. Grisanti answered that "there's no candidate yet" even though Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino formally declared his candidacy last week to great fanfare.
Perhaps the Senator was alluding to the fact that the NYS GOP has not yet held its convention and therefore has not yet officially designated a candidate. Still, Astorino is very clearly a candidate and, barring an increasingly unlikely run by billionaire Donald Trump, he'll likely be the only candidate against Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Mulqueen's question put Sen. Grisanti in a difficult spot: he's friendly with Cuomo, much to the chagrin of local Republicans. Many believe the legislator voted for Cuomo's SAFE Act as part of a pinky pact he has with the Governor. Insiders expect Sen. Grisanti to stay completely out of the governors race as a favor to his powerful friend. His Cuomo relationship will certainly become an issue in his reelection. Mulqueen opened that can of worms early.
That same morning, prior to the monthly roundtable, the ECGOP executive committee met to endorse candidates and passed over Sen. Grisanti. According to insiders, the Republican leaders want to wait and see if a formidable Republican will stand up for a primary challenge to the controversial incumbent.
It's not clear how all this will shake out, but the Grisanti race will surely draw statewide attention. Meanwhile, Mulqueen's question begs for an answer: just how close to Cuomo is Grisanti, and how will that translate in the governor's 2014 re-election?
Watch this space.