Albany, NY – Republican Marc Molinaro vowed Monday to change what he called Albany’s climate of corruption and behind-closed-doors deals as he formally kicked off his campaign for New York governor.

Taking aim at two-term Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Molinaro criticized “leaders who squander the public’s trust by putting the personal politics of ambition and greed above government’s true purpose” of serving the people.

If he gets his party’s nomination, Molinaro faces a daunting task in trying to beat Cuomo, son of the late former Gov. Mario Cuomo. The younger Cuomo has about $30 million in his campaign war chest, and registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-1 margin in New York state.

Molinaro, a 42-year-old married father of three, was elected county executive of Dutchess County in November 2011. He’s the top elected leader in one of New York’s more affluent counties, where a mix of high-tech industries, rural charm and proximity to New York City generally have shielded it from the economic stagnation still plaguing many upstate counties.

A graduate of a local two-year community college, Molinaro lacks a four-year degree but has plenty of on-the-job experience for public office. He was elected a village trustee at age 18 in 1994, then was elected Tivoli’s mayor later that same year, making him the youngest mayor in the U.S. at the time. After 12 years as mayor, he served in the Dutchess County Legislature and followed that up by serving in the state Assembly from 2007 to 2011.

“It is here, in this very building, for over 4,000 days I learned about the importance, the privilege and the responsibility of holding elective office,” Molinaro said at his campaign kickoff event at Tivoli Village Hall.

Molinaro initially had said he wouldn’t seek the Republican nomination for governor but changed his mind last month after state Sen. John DeFrancisco, of Syracuse, announced he would seek the party’s nomination to challenge Cuomo. Since then, Molinaro has picked up support from most county GOP leaders across New York. The state Republican Party will select its candidate in May.

“Whether it’s Molinaro or DeFrancisco, it’s clear that the New York GOP is intent on pushing an ultra-conservative Trump agenda, and a candidate that has the same positions as Trump with a different hair color,” said Geoff Berman, executive director of the state Democratic Party.

At Molinaro’s second campaign Monday afternoon at an Albany hotel just down the street from the Capitol, he continued to criticize Cuomo, who faces a Democratic primary challenge from “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon.

“When this governor came into office, I had the same belief that many had, that perhaps he’d sweep in a new day,” Molinaro said after his speech. “But instead we’ve had seven years of a new normal where pay-for-play politics and this corrosive corruption and culture of more corruption continues to paralyze the way in which state government is supposed to function.”

During his earlier remarks, he referred to last month’s conviction of the governor’s former top aide on corruption charges. A Manhattan jury found Joseph Percoco guilty on federal bribery and fraud charges stemming from acceptance of more than $300,000 in bridges from companies looking to do business with the state.

Cuomo wasn’t accused of any wrongdoing, but the trial and others on the upcoming docket involving former high-profile state government figures highlight Albany’s pay-to-play culture.

“Whether you know it or not, whether Albany accepts it or not, all New Yorkers are paying a corruption tax,” Molinaro said. “It’s a hidden, undermining, corrosive tax on every single New Yorker.”

As reported by Vos Iz Neias