Rep. Chris Gibson, a Republican, Explores Run for New York Governor in ’18

Representative Chris Gibson, an upstate Republican, at a meeting of young party activists in Brooklyn last March.

Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

United States Representative Chris Gibson, a Republican from upstate New York who has become a sharp critic of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said he plans to create a committee to prepare for a potential run for governor in 2018.

Mr. Gibson, a retired Army colonel, has toured the state over the last year as he weighed a bid for higher office. He said in an interview that paperwork would be filed on Monday to form Gibson for New York, an entity that Mr. Gibson described as an exploratory committee that would allow him to begin raising money for a potential campaign.

While Mr. Gibson, 51, said in the interview he had not made a final decision on the race, he said the challenge of winning the governorship, and Mr. Cuomo’s fund-raising prowess, made it essential to accelerate his own efforts now.

Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, has not said if he will seek a third term, but he has reported having $16 million in reserve for a campaign.

“This mountain to climb is very steep and narrow,” Mr. Gibson said. “My eyes are wide open on this.” He said he believed New Yorkers were ready for a new approach in Albany after years of what he described as autocratic governing by Mr. Cuomo.

“This guy has been governing through fear and intimidation and really trying to divide the state,” Mr. Gibson said, adding, “My approach is really of rallying and unifying and hopefully elevating the discourse.”

A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo declined to comment.

Should both men run in 2018, Mr. Gibson, who lives in Kinderhook and whose district is centered in the Hudson Valley, would appear to be the most formidable opponent that Mr. Cuomo has drawn in a governor’s race. In his congressional campaigns, Mr. Gibson has built a reputation as an upbeat and intensely competitive candidate, with an instinct for finding common ground with Democrats on issues like the environment and gay rights.

But no Republican has won statewide office in New York since Gov. George E. Pataki’s final race for re-election in 2002. Mr. Gibson, who is in his third term representing New York’s 19th District, would have to defend his voting record in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, and a conservative stance on gun issues that might unsettle voters in New York City.

Mr. Gibson outlined a list of themes he plans address in a campaign for governor, starting with economic development, education and government ethics. He said the state’s tax and regulatory laws were harming job growth, and he criticized Mr. Cuomo for taking what he described as an overly centralized approach to education.

Only strict ethics reform, Mr. Gibson said, could restore public faith in government after the corruption scandals that had felled several legislative leaders, including Sheldon Silver, the former Assembly speaker, and Dean G. Skelos, the former State Senate president.

“The governor said he was going to clean up Albany,” Mr. Gibson said. “Look, he has not delivered, by any stretch.”

Meaningful reform, Mr. Gibson said, would include term limits for lawmakers, an end to a campaign-finance loophole that allows essentially unlimited contributions to candidates, and the creation of an independent commission to draw legislative districts.

Mr. Cuomo has pledged to advocate for strong ethics laws during this year’s legislative session. But Mr. Gibson said the governor’s recent policy announcements on ethics and education should be viewed with suspicion.

“There are so many folks who have lost confidence in him and they really do doubt his sincerity on the issues,” Mr. Gibson said.

Mr. Gibson said he was prepared to address the issue of guns as well, and would advance an aggressive public-safety agenda. He said Mr. Cuomo had erred by prioritizing gun control over other crime-fighting policies.

Mr. Gibson’s own preference, he said, would be to “roll back the SAFE Act,” the strict gun-control law that Mr. Cuomo signed in 2013, and focus instead on fighting gang violence and drug trafficking, and providing services to people with severe mental health conditions.

By forming a fund-raising committee nearly three years before the next election for governor, Mr. Gibson may also be hoping to gain an early advantage over other Republicans contemplating the 2018 race.

Among them are Harry Wilson, an investment banker who narrowly lost a race for state comptroller in 2010, and Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive who ran against Mr. Cuomo in 2014.

Mr. Cuomo won re-election that year by a double-digit margin.

Read Story

Can't Get Enough NewsReportOnline?

Sign up for NewsReportOnline newsletter and get the latest news straight to your inbox!