Businessman Harry Wilson was in Buffalo on Friday to meet with campaign supporters in his bid to become governor of New York, as well as to pay his respects at the site of the racially motivated Tops mass shooting.
Wilson is running for the Republican nomination for governor and sat down to speak about his campaign at the Spot Coffee on Delaware Avenue.
Wilson has emphasized his working class background through being the son of Greek immigrants, his professional skills in fixing companies and his electoral viability in being able to appeal across party lines. Compared to frontrunners like Congressman Lee Zeldin, and Andrew Giuliani the son of former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, Wilson has positioned himself as being more of a moderate Republican who can win over voters from outside the party. Most current polling has him in fourth place behind Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino.
While he has never held public office, Wilson has run for a statewide office before in 2010 when he was the GOP candidate for state comptroller. In the end he lost to Democrat Thomas DiNapoli, who is still in office. Wilson lost by 4%, which is remarkably close for a Republican running in a staunchly blue state. This point has been emphasized by Wilson, saying that he is a Republican who can win in a liberal state like New York.
“I’m the only person who’s come close,” he said. “The reason was because even though I ran on a very fiscally conservative platform for comptroller, Republicans, Independents, and a large number of Democrats thought that I was a person who could deliver, and make the state better for their families.”
Wilson has worked for Blackstone Group, Goldman Sachs, and was a partner at Silver Point Capital. He was formerly the CEO of Genesis Healthcare, and is currently the CEO of MAEVA Group, an advisory firm that he founded. He was also a Senior Treasury Department advisor during the Obama administration and was also a member of Obama’s auto industry crisis task force. During that time, he was largely involved with working to help solve the financial problems with General Motors during the Great Recession. Wilson has largely centered his platform on the fiscal economics which he has experience in, such as lowering taxes and eliminating regulations that he believes are ineffective.
When addressing the aftermath of the recent mass shooting in Buffalo, Wilson said he feels that both major parties have gone to their predictable corners in addressing the issues, and are therefore hindering good-faith discussions. He was critical of warning signs leading up to the shooting being overlooked, and that the state’s domestic terrorism taskforce was under staffed at the time of the shooting.
“This monster was on Discord talking about this,” Wilson said. “People were aware of his plans and there was no effort to stop it, or even identify it.”
While supportive of free speech, he’s said that advocating violence shouldn’t be protected speech, and that he is also in favor of red-flag laws and background checks for firearm purchases.
Wilson also feels that American society is responding to racism in a way that isn’t constructive by sealing off in echo-chambers and letting the problems go unresolved.
“The way to deal with it is building bridges with common understanding, but I think what we’re doing as a society is retreating to our own silo’s, on social media and socially. I think that’s a recipe for not making progress,” Wilson said. “What we’re better off doing is having leaders who advocate building bridges.”
In regard to Covid policies, while he does support encouraging voluntary vaccination, and hopes that the pandemic won’t be as serious by the time of the election, Wilson is opposed to government-issued vaccination mandates. He is however supportive of corporate-issued vaccination mandates on workplace-wide levels.
“I’m vaccinated, I’m in favor of people getting vaccinated, but I’m not in favor of public sector vaccination mandates,” he said.
Wilson has also taken a “pro-choice” stance on abortion rights, which sets him apart from mainstream Republicans. Amidst indications that the Supreme Court is seeking to overturn Roe V. Wade, Wilson feels that fighting abortion rights is a losing battle for a statewide candidate in New York, which has some of the strongest abortion rights laws in the country.
“New York state has never elected a ‘pro-life’ governor ever, and I don’t think they ever will post-Roe,” Wilson said. “We have a well defined abortion law in the state, and I would not seek to change that.”
On the issue of New York’s environmental policies, Wilson believes that while cutting back on carbon emissions is important, he feels that the current climate plans are unrealistic, and lack consensus from everyday people.
“They’ve established these arbitrary deadlines for abolishing natural gas and internal combustion engines, without doing the analytical work on how to get there,” Wilson said. “If the electrical grid can’t support it, then there’s no way to get there.”
He is also supportive of cryptocurrency mining, but does feel that the industry should be regulated to offset carbon emissions, rather than see them banned outright.
While Wilson has a lot of qualities that would make him a formidable candidate in a New York statewide election, it’s clear that his campaign is struggling to break through the more hard right stance that the GOP has embraced in the post-Trump era. The statewide Republican party has been interested in him running for governor before in 2018, and also expressed interest last year, yet at the Republican state convention in February, the party instead endorsed Congressman Zeldin. Wilson said that he still intends to support the Republican nominee regardless of who it is.
Thinking that American politics have become too divisive over the last three decades with both sides demonizing each other, Wilson is hopeful that an outsider to the political system can achieve policy that can help people in the best possible way. Despite the radical shift in his own party, Wilson still feels confident in his ability to win the primary, he said he believes that members of the Republican party still want sensible policies.
“The Republican party is almost 170 years old, and since its inception it has in my opinion stood for the three pillars of freedom, opportunity, and safety.” Wilson said. “Those are my personal philosophical pillars. It’s why I’m a Republican, and I think it will define the party long after I’m gone.”