A rebel effort to draft Libertarian Party gubernatorial candidate Larry Sharpe onto the New York Republican primary ballot has failed to gather sufficient signatures. Interventions from top New York GOP leaders, including Republican candidate Marc Molinaro, convinced the movement’s leaders to withdraw their support and discourage other petitioners from taking part.
Despite the apparent setback, a substantial group of grassroots Republicans is poised to continue supporting Sharpe in the upcoming general election campaign.
New York GOP grassroots discontent
As previously reported in News Growl, over 100 county-level New York GOP activists spontaneously contacted the Sharpe campaign in mid-June. In a flood of emails they expressed their disappointment with the official Republican Party candidate, Marc Molinaro, and expressed their support for getting Larry Sharpe and his running-mate Andrew Hollister on the Republican party primary ballot.
The organizing of the grassroots effort appears to have taken place mostly in group emails and various Facebook discussion groups, like the “Western New York State 2A Forum.”
Petitioning officially began on June 26th. Activists had three weeks to collect 15,000 signatures from registered New York Republican voters. The Sharpe campaign made it clear that while they would not be actively supporting the drive, they were happy for the petitioning to go ahead.
A few days after the drive started, however, key leaders in the movement dramatically renounced the petition effort, apparently responding to pressure from New York GOP leadership.
“Spending time with Marc Molinaro”
One of the instigators of the effort to draft the Libertarian ticket, Gary Perry, explained the reasons for his apparent volte face in an email dated July 3rd.
“After spending time with Republican Party candidate Marc Molinaro last week I have learned that with Marc Molinaro as the candidate we support we have a very real opportunity to defeat Cuomo (Cuomo’s Gotta Go).
“For these reasons the only real choice, at this time, to replace Andrew Cuomo and end four more years of Cuomo’s destructive tax and spend policies is to support Marc Molinaro.
“For those of us who continue to insist on supporting Larry Sharpe for Governor, I highly recommend getting behind the ‘Larry Sharpe For Governor 2022 movement.’ This could be, and should be, the long game or the 10 to 20-year plan several of you have spoken about.”
News Growl reached out to Gary Perry for additional information. According to Perry he had been one of the most important initial people to promote Sharpe’s candidacy for the Republican line.
In mid-June, Perry says he emailed “GOP County Chairs and others” saying he was convinced Molinaro could not win the governorship. After speaking with the Sharpe campaign he urged fellow GOP activists to get behind an Opportunity to Ballot petition, which would allow Sharpe as a non-Republican to run as a write-in candidate in the primary against Molinaro.
Regarding what appears to now be a switch of allegiance away from Sharpe, Perry now denies that he had ever actually supported Sharpe in the first place. He said he believes in primaries and simply wants the best candidate to win.
When we asked Perry what Molinaro had said to convince him the Republican ticket would be competitive in November (something he himself had argued was impossible just a month ago) Perry offered no detail, saying:
“I did meet with Marc Molinaro and have learned of his plans once in office,” he said. “I believe that Marc Molinaro’s plan is solid and worth supporting…Marc Molinaro has an very real opportunity to defeat Cuomo if his campaign performs.”
Shannon Joy: “Molinaro is not even really running”
To get a better perspective on the confusing situation, News Growl spoke to popular syndicated conservative talk show host Shannon Joy. Although not an active participant in the petitioning effort, Joy has extensive connections among grassroots Republicans in Western New York State, and has been included in much of the discussion.
“I think part of the problem was a disagreement over strategy,” she explained. “The Sharpe campaign has been very upfront from the start about where they would be devoting their resources. I think Gary and others for some reason had different expectations.
“But I don’t know what made Gary turn like that. After bashing Molinaro for weeks he had a meeting with him and was suddenly saying, ‘Go Molinaro!’
“The idea that Molinaro has a chance to win is complete and utter bull. Molinaro is not even really running. He has no name recognition across the state. You can’t even see him without paying $250 per plate. I love Gary but I think he’s wrong on this.”
Libertarians not intimidated by New York GOP
Speaking exclusively to News Growl on Thursday, Sharpe campaign Field Director Tucker Coburn confirmed that the 106 petitioners he was aware of had not met the 15,000 signature target.
Although the effort may have always been a long-shot, Coburn is convinced that the New York GOP was desperate to keep the grassroots primary challenge from even getting off the ground.
“All of the potential petitioners were Republicans,” he said. “They were dissuaded by the public comments of some ‘leaders’ of the effort.
“We are now shifting our focus to making sure we get so many signatures that the Republican Party cannot keep us off the general election ballot on a Libertarian line,” Coburn explained. “They have less ability to intimidate our petitioners, as fewer of them are Republicans.”
Lauren McKinnon, Sharpe campaign Communications Director, thinks the mere existence of the petitioning effort is a serious sign that Larry Sharpe is a real contender for this November.
“Just the fact that over a hundred Republicans would contact us, desperate for Larry to replace Marc Molinaro on the New York GOP ballot line, speaks volumes. Larry is the strongest candidate the Libertarian Party has ever had anywhere in the country, and we are really looking forward to the general election campaign.”
And McKinnon has reasons to be optimistic. Despite the petitioning effort not succeeding, there are plenty of normally Republican voters still backing Larry Sharpe, whatever the official New York GOP position is.
Radio host Shannon Joy explained, “I am very comfortable supporting him and I’m not the only one. As a Republican, and someone who has contacts with Republicans across the state, I can confirm there is a very real and robust movement to support Sharpe.”
The New York GOP and the Marc Molinaro campaign were asked to contribute to this article but did not respond to repeated email requests from News Growl.