He was once the youngest mayor in the United States and is currently the Dutchess County executive. And for his next trick, Marc Molinaro, a Republican, would like to be governor of New York.

Molinaro knows he’s the underdog—in the last 40 years, there has only been one Republican elected—but, as he told the crowd who’d come to see him speak at North Salem’s Westchester Exceptional Children’s School on Aug. 25, he doesn’t take on public service because it’s easy, though he did waver on the decision initially. 

To run, or not to run? That was the question, and a conversation with his son, Jack, proved to hold the answer. 

“I said, ‘Jack, your dad is being asked to run for governor again. He looked up at me and said, ‘How many times do they have to ask you?’ And I said, ‘Jack, this is not going to be easy. The governor (Andrew Cuomo) has a lot of money and this is going to be a challenge. I’ll be out a lot and you won’t see me. They’re going to say some awful things and some mean things and nearly all of them will be false. It’s going to be a difficult challenge, really tough,’” Molinaro said. “My son Jack looked back up at me and he said, ‘You coach our soccer team.’ He said, ‘Dad, we play some really tough teams and no matter how difficult the game is, you tell us to go out and play hard. Don’t you think you should take some of your own advice?’”

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, first came into office, Molinaro said he hoped it would be a “brand new day” for New York, but he said that’s not how things shook out.

During the Town Hall, hosted by the North Salem Republican Club, Molinaro told the audience exactly what he would do different.

First, he promised to lower property taxes. New Yorkers have the highest in the country, Molinaro said, and because of that, younger generations are moving out, retirees are choosing to spend their last years elsewhere, and businesses are closing up.

He then planned to invest in the state’s crumbling infrastructure and tackle the opioid epidemic head on.

He also wants to make New York a place where everyone—far right or far left—feels like they belong. 

The questions Molinaro took from the audience were tough and wide-ranging.

On abortion, Molinaro said he’d “uphold the law,” but wants to see better healthcare options for women in low-income neighborhoods. On marijuana, he said he wants to expand access for medical cannabis patients, but is “not prepared to support full legalization.” He also doesn’t “think anyone should be in jail” for pot.

To battle the opioid epidemic, he wants to confront the stigma, invest in prevention services, and treat recovery services as a life-long need.

On immigration, Molinaro said he supports a plan that addresses border security and provides a path to citizenship. He criticized Cuomo for refusing to work with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“If you break the law, you go home,” Molinaro said. “That’s my belief.”

Molinaro would like to have “regulatory reform and relief” for business owners—“This state licenses and certifies everything,” he said—and give small businesses and farmers property tax deductions.

Somers Supervisor Rick Morrissey asked the candidate how he plans to deal with NYSEG and Somers and North Salem’s ongoing battle with the Public Service Commission to act on complaints about the utility.

“Are you prepared to take on the PSC and make them do their job?” Morrissey asked.

Under Cuomo, Molinaro said, “every entity … has been politicized to minimize bad publicity.” 

Molinaro said he’s prepared to fine NYSEG for not doing its job and get refunds for people who lost hundreds from spoiled food and nights in hotels.

The candidate also talked passionately about improving services for those with disabilities, motivated by his daughter, who is on the autism spectrum. 

“I have learned how absolutely difficult it is to navigate services,” Molinaro said. “This governor has done so little. As governor of the state of New York … everything we do will be focused on being universally accessible and lifting up those who are marginalized in our state.”

As for a showdown between Molinaro and Cuomo? Using Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham,” Molinaro riffed on the fight between Cuomo and Democratic candidate Cynthia Nixon’s complaint’s that Cuomo dictated the terms and required that both candidates be seated.

“I’ll debate him in a chair, I’ll debate him at a fair. I’ll debate him with a fox, I’ll debate him in a box. I’ll debate him left, right, upstairs or downstairs,” Molinaro said. “It’s all fine by me because you deserve it.”