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New State GOP Leader to Take Helm in July; Promises "New Fighting Spirit" to Return Party to Power

Karen DeWitt

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 to talk about the transition.

On the surface, it is an amicable change of leadership.

Ed Cox, 72, oversaw the party for the past ten years.  He's the son in law of former President Richard Nixon, and says he’s pleased with his new position as part of  a team to help finance President Trump’s reelection effort.

I’m somehow attracted to presidential politics,” said Cox, who said 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 GOP Governor George Pataki decided not to seek a fourth term in office. Last November, the GOP lost, by a significant margin, its hold on the State Senate, 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 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 his majority in one election,” Langworthy said.  “I think we can gain this majority back in one election.”

Senator Micheal Gianaris is chair of the  Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and helped oversee many  of the Democratic Senators’ victories last November. He does not give the GOP much of a chance in making gains in 2020 in New York.

Credit Karen DeWitt / WXXI News
Ed Cox has presided over the state GOP for 10 years.

He’s half right, they did lose the election,”  said  Gianaris. “Where he’s wrong is the possibility that they might take it back.”

Gianaris says  he expects a “huge democratic vote” in 2020, in response to President Trump at the top of the ticket. 

Republicans face an uphill battle to win seats in New York. President Trump, who will be at the top of the ticket, is deeply unpopular in the state. 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, says he knows that his first task is boosting enrollment in the Republican Party.

But he says 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 says that strategy has been successful in winning several recent elections in Erie County, where Republicans are outnumbered.

And Langworthy says President Trump “ is much more popular than people think”.

This is going to be a pocketbook election, and the economy is on fire,” Langworthy said. 

The new GOP chair says 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.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has not said whether he intends to seek a fourth term as governor, but is actively raising money for his campaign fund. A senior advisor to Cuomo, Rich Azzopardi, is skeptical of the  GOP’s chances.

My goal is also to be taller and a short stop for the Mets,” Azzopardi quipped .

Republican leaders in the legislature , who are in the minority in both houses, say 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 says are “radical New York City Democrats”  in the legislature.

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb says “it’s time for a change” in party leadership, and 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 say they intend to work together until then.  

Langworthy, at 38, will be the youngest GOP Chair in state history, says he plans to get younger people, and women more involved in the party, and wants to make it more ethnically diverse.