Harry Wilson: I Lost Because ‘People Didn’t Pay Attention’

Among the 2,200 people–by their count–in the audience for today’s State of the State Address was Harry Wilson, the failed Republican candidate for state Comptroller.

Wilson, you may recall, was widely viewed as the G.O.P. best chance to win a statewide race since 2002. He had a glittering resume that included being called upon by Barack Obama to help rescue the auto industry, he had a tons of cash from his career in finance, and he had all of the editorial boards who lavished praised upon him. His opponent, incumbent Tom DiNapoli, was tarnished by Albany scandal, had little cash, and even his party’s standard-bearer, Andrew Cuomo, wouldn’t publicly support him.

But on election night, DiNapoli eked out a three-point victory, leading many Republicans to wonder how they could ever hope to win a statewide office in New York.

Wilson though said that party registration was only part of the problem. The other, he said, was that most voters don’t pay that much attention, especially for down-ballot races.

“People, frankly, don’t pay much attention to down-ballot races and so it’s hard to break through. And for the people who did break through, at least based on our polling, I won by about 25 points, despite the massive registration disadvantage. But there is an outstanding percentage of the voters who didn’t pay much attention to the race and I split those on basically a party line vote. That was enough to offset the big win I had with people who did paid attention.  So I think it’s two things. It is hard for a republicans to win but i also think on a downballot race people just don’t pay that much attention so it’s hard to break through.”

Wilson said that he was not sure if he would run again.

“I am not opposed to it. Somebody said to me, early on, once you are bitten by the bug you are bitten. I don’t feel that way. I feel like I enjoyed it, I feel like I would have a made a big difference if I had won. If I felt that again in the future I would do it again. If I don’t, I would have a very content life doing other things.”

Wilson said he hadn’t figured out what he would do next, and that it might be in either the private or the public sector. As for what he’s been up to since the election, he said, simply, “Vacation.”

Harry Wilson: I Lost Because ‘People Didn’t Pay Attention’