The year 2019 has been a year of major change in New York politics.
The biggest change in Albany has been the takeover of the State Senate by Democrats, which gave the Democratic Party full control of the elected branches of state government. However, this is not the only change happening in state politics. This year, one longtime political party leader has left his post, while another is scheduled to do so this summer.
The Conservative Party of New York State currently occupies Row C on New York ballots. Since its founding in 1962, the Conservative Party has acted as a counterweight against the liberal drift of the Empire State. Michael R. Long became Chairman of the Conservative Party in 1988. During his lengthy tenure, Chairman Long—a Brooklyn native—became known as a staunch and effective leader who refused to budge on critical issues like same-sex “marriage.” When wishy-washy Republicans considered voting in ways that conflicted with conservative principles, they had to think twice because of the possibility that Chairman Long might remove the Party’s support for them in their next election. In January 2019, at age 78, Chairman Long stepped down after more than three decades in leadership. The Party selected Gerry Kassar, a longtime chief of staff to former State Sen. Marty Golden, as its new Chairman. Observers anticipate that Chairman Kassar (who also hails from Brooklyn) will continue Chairman Long’s legacy while working to attract younger voters to the Party.
More recently, New York’s Republican Party has embarked on its own leadership transition. Ed Cox became Chairman of the New York State Republican Committee in September 2009. Cox worked as an attorney at a Manhattan law firm and is the son-in-law of former U.S. President Richard Nixon. Cox led the Party through three consecutive statewide election cycles (in 2010, 2014, and 2018) in which the GOP failed to win a statewide office. Following the setbacks suffered by the Party in the 2018 elections, Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy announced that he would challenge Cox for the statewide leadership of the party. On May 20, 2019, after Monroe County Republican Chair Bill Reilich announced his support for Langworthy, Cox announced that he was withdrawing his candidacy for a new term as chairman. According to the Buffalo News, the leadership transition from Cox to Langworthy is expected to become official at the NYSRC’s July 2019 meeting. The shift from Cox to Langworthy is generational (Cox is 72; Langworthy is 38), regional (Cox hails from downstate New York, while Langworthy is from western New York), and cultural (Cox is a wealthy moderate, but Langworthy is a populist who was an early supporter of Carl Paladino’s 2010 gubernatorial and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaigns).