Cox Takes Suffolk, Heads to Dutchess

ALBANY—After holding a press conference to announce the endorsement of Suffolk County Republican leaders, Ed Cox is headed to Dutchess County to meet with the executive committee of the party apparatus there, his spokesman confirmed, in his ongoing quest to become chairman of the Republican State Committee.

The Manhattan attorney is openly campaigning for a position that will be determined by a vote of state committee members in late September, rolling out the endorsements of county party chairs. While he now has 31 of the 62 in New York, they don't represent a plurality of the population. Republican sources–even those amenable to Cox–have said that it's not yet a done deal.

"It's still a crap shoot," said one.

Cox doesn't have the support of Erie, Saratoga, Dutchess, Rockland, Onondaga, Monroe, Broome or Tioga counties upstate, nor Bronx, Manhattan or Staten Island downstate. While Cox announced the support of Queens Chairman Phil Ragusa, it's unclear whether Ragusa will be able to deliver all the committeemen in the county.

According to one longtime Republican observer, Cox's choice of a public strategy may have steeled the resolve of current chairman Joe Mondello. (Mondello has repeatedly parried overtures from the press; his spokesman has said only that he intends to run again.)

"Everybody's understanding was to get to Mondello, give him a graceful exit, and let him out," said one longtime Republican observer. "That's not possible now."

The flip side, this Republican said, was that Cox had smoked Rudy Giuliani and George Pataki out into the open. Both are backing Wojtaszek. "If Giuliani says, ‘I will run for governor if so-and-so is chairman,' than that solves it," the source said. "And if this whole thing is just to flush out Rudy, then it's worth it."

Mondello's other serious would-be challenger has been taking this path. Henry Wojtaszek hasn't begun openly campaigning or, beyond talking to Liz the other day, said anything publicly about actually mounting a run.

Tom Basile, Cox's aide and spokesman, said team Cox is "confident that this is heading our direction."

"The leaders across the state are genuinely enthusiastic about Ed's candidacy and his ideas," he said. "We've been so honored with the outpouring of support, and with Suffolk County's support we now have the support of 50 percent of New York's Republican county chairs." Cox Takes Suffolk, Heads to Dutchess