A week after Rep. Chris Gibson (R-New York) confirmed he will not seek a fourth term in 2016, pundits and pols in the Empire State are asking why, at age 50 and following a landslide (2-to-1) re-election, he is now saying "I'm outta here!"
Republican sources in the 19th District (upstate New York) reminded Newsmax that when he won his first term in 2010, Gibson repeatedly said he supported term limits, although the GOP hopeful never actually said how long such term limits should be and never signed the U.S. Term Limits pledge limiting his own tenure.
Gibson did say at different times, the same sources recalled to us, that he preferred three or four two-year terms and no more. After announcing his retirement in '16, Gibson told reporters he would seriously consider running for governor as a private citizen in '18.
If he does so, centrist Republican Gibson would most likely be on a collision course with conservative Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive and 2014 gubernatorial nominee of the Republican and Conservative parties.
"Rob Astorino lost to [Democratic] Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo by a margin of 53 percent to 40 percent and that's especially impressive when one considers he didn't have much money," said George Marlin, former head of the New York Port Authority and 1993 Conservative Party nominee for mayor of New York. "He can probably have the '18 nomination for governor and will be especially strong if Gov. Cuomo doesn't run again. Chris Gibson will have an uphill fight for nomination."
A retired U.S. Army colonel, Gibson moved gradually from right to center in office. Initially a backer of the "Path to Prosperity" budget of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), the New Yorker ended up voting against it and became one of nine House Republicans to back the Cooper-LaTourette budget (which essentially followed the framework of the Simpson-Bowles Commission and included some tax increases).
Gibson also refused to sign the no-tax pledge of Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform. And he is one of only 44 House Republicans who says he believes in climate change.
Although he voted to defund Obamacare on Sept. 19, Gibson became one of only two House Republicans to break with party leaders and support funding the government, including the controversial healthcare plan — the other was fellow upstate New York Rep. Richard Hanna.
It is almost a foregone conclusion that Gibson's successor in Congress will be a fellow Republican to the incumbent's right — an "upgrade," as conservative activists like to say. At this point, most conservative eyes are on John Faso, former State Assembly GOP leader and 2006 nominee for governor.
"If John is interested in running he'd be very formidable and would certainly be among those the Conservative Party would look favorably toward giving their ballot line to," State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long told Newsmax, referring to his party's "Row C" ballot line that is usually critical to New York Republicans who win in general elections.
"Although he's no longer in office, John has been moving around and very active on behalf of other candidates," Long said.
Also mentioned for the Republican and Conservative nominations are State Assemblymen Pete Lopez of Schoharie County and Steve McLaughlin of Rensselaer County. Both are considered strong conservatives, with McLaughlin characterized in Albany as more of a "swashbuckler." But McLaughlin has flirted with higher office before, including governor in '14 and a primary challenge to then-State Sen. Roy McDonald over his pro-same sex marriage vote. But he finally decided to stay in the Assembly.
Since 1980, Democrats have held the 19th District only four years: 2006-09, when Kirsten Gillibrand was its member of Congress before being appointed to Hillary Clinton's Senate seat, and 2009-10, when fellow Democrat Scott Murphy won a special election but lost a bid for a full term to Gibson. The lone Democrat mentioned for the race in '16 is Ulster County Executive Michael Hein, a leader of his party's far left in the mold of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
But the odds against a Democrat winning the open seat are made stiffer by the growing prospect that the small Green Party will run a candidate of its own. Last year, in the neighboring 21st District, Green Party nominee Matt Funiciello won a whopping 11 percent of the vote in the three-candidate race won by Republican Elise Stefanik.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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