New York's Republican Party met in a hotel outside Albany on Monday to choose its new chair. Nick Langworthy replaces Ed Cox, the son-in-law of former President Richard Nixon. The 38-year-old promises to bring new energy to the fight against the state's dominant political party, the Democrats.
The meeting, attended by Republicans from all over the state, was part nominating meeting, part pep rally. Cox, the outgoing longtime GOP chair, acknowledged that the party needs to re-energize in New York.
"Our comeback starts now," Cox said. "We are united. We have done it before and we will do it again."
Republicans have not won a statewide office since 2002, when Gov. George Pataki won a third term in office.
Cox lost his bid to remain as party chair after a decade at the helm. Speakers were uniformly complimentary toward him, but they also spoke of a need for change.
They said they see an opportunity in winning voters who may be put off by the leftward trend of the Democratic Party, with key figures like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and presidential candidate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning) urged Republicans to go outside their comfort zone and visit places like Harlem and liberal upstate cities like Ithaca, where he says they could win some converts.
"This (Democratic) party has been taken over by extremists," said Reed, who added the Democrats' ideas will "destroy our state and our country."
"Never on our watch," Reed said. "America will not become a socialist nation."
Others said Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the all-Democratic state Legislature have offended many potential voters by going too far in their progressive policies this year -- including allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses and strengthening rights for late-term abortions.
Democrats, in the final hours of the session, nearly passed an automatic voter registration bill that mistakenly would have allowed undocumented immigrants to vote. The glitch was discovered by Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island), who spoke at the convention and who is seeking a seat in Congress.
"That was no error," Malliotakis said. "They know how reckless they have been under one-party rule."
Langworthy, the former Erie County Republican chair, has overseen an upstate Republican bastion against the growing statewide influence of the Democrats. He is an avid supporter of President Donald Trump, and said Republicans should learn from the president that it is okay to play hardball in politics.
"Our president has made America great," Langworthy said, "and the New York GOP will help him keep America great."
Speaking to reporters afterward, Langworthy said that he believes voters can be won over with an economic message. He said the president is "delivering economic results" for everyone, comparing the situation to that of conservative President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.
"Most Americans can say, 'I'm better off than I was three years ago,' " said Langworthy.
He said he believes Trump can bring out voters who stayed home in the 2018 elections, which he called "really tough on New York Republicans."
Langworthy vowed to field a Republican candidate in every congressional district in the state next year. After that, he says he plans to find someone to run and win against Cuomo, and deny the governor's wish to serve a fourth term.