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Governor Chris Collins?

by on May 20, 2009
According to the New York Post, Erie County Executive Chris Collins is a potential backup for a GOP gubernatorial candidate if Rudy Guiliani chooses not to run.
 NEW YORK Republicans are eyeing a dynamic but little- known upstate businessman and elected official to run for governor next year if Rudy Giuliani declines, The Post has learned.

GOP leaders say Erie County Executive Chris Collins, a wealthy, charismatic, conservative-oriented entrepreneur and government reformer is interested.

Collins, who won a surprising landslide victory in the heavily Democratic county in 2007, would make a great candidate, they say.

“He recently came to see me, and I came away sure he was interested in running for governor,” former US Sen. Alfonse D’Amato told The Post.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. This idea that Chris Collins could run for governor was floated to me a few weeks ago, and my first instinct was to say, “Yes, he is definately a potential candidate in the future… but not in 2010.”

The first issue was obvious: If you don’t live in Erie County, you’ve probably never heard of Chris Collins. Name recognition is actually quite important, even against an unpopular incumbent.  

The second issue was that it would be seen as quite a big jump: going from County Executive to Governor. Just as Caroline Kennedy’s potential jump from daughter of a slain president to U.S. Senator was hard for most to accept, Collins would similarly be open to those types of criticisms.  When I lived in Massachusetts, I was very involved in local politics, and one major problem the Massachusetts GOP had with candidate recruitment was that potential candidates weren’t interested in running for city- or state-level office before running for Congress or the U.S. Senate.  They weren’t willing to establish themselves locally and build up name recognition outside of their hometown or district before jumping into a race for an office in which they had significant disadvantages in name recognition and funds. Chris Collins would be at a similar disadvantage if he ran now.

Chris Collins may be a rising star in the New York Republican Party, but, I believe that people should be ready for the jobs they take and leaders have a record of accomplishment.

The other day on WBEN, Sandy Beach said that Collins has yet to “pay his dues.”  And that’s another point worth addressing. I am certainly willing to trade public sector experience for private sector experience — and Collins’ 30+ years of business experience certainly makes him qualified — but I do agree that Collins needs to finish one term as Erie County Executive before seeking higher office.  Now, I’d like to believe that voters considered this, but then again, Barack Obama had barely served in the U.S. Senate before running for president, so he has no record of accomplishment and is completely unqualified to be president. Chris Collins is far more qualified to be governor than Barack Obama is to be president, (hell, he is more qualified than Barack Obama to be president) but that doesn’t means Collins should run for governor just yet.

It appears, despite media speculation, Collins doesn’t see himself jumping in the race either, according to this statement via WBEN:

“I am humbled and encouraged by the attention that our success in Erie County is generating across New York State. Whether it’s been fundamentally reforming county government, signing historic labor agreements that actually respect taxpayers or cutting discretionary spending by 25%, every decision we’re making in Erie County is based on providing value to taxpayers.”

“We are challenging and beating the status quo in our community by reducing spending, restoring accountability and respecting taxpayers and local decision making. Albany could learn a thing or two from Erie County.”

“Ultimately, what New Yorkers desperately need now is proven leadership with a history of success that can make the tough decisions and right this sinking ship. Mayor Giuliani is exactly the kind of leader we need at this moment in history, and that’s why I have urged him to run for Governor.”

 I think the state GOP has a good future leader in Chris Collins, but I’d like to see him finish the job he started before seeking his next job.

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