RYE BROOK — New York's 2014 election season officially gets under way as the state Republican Party gathers in Westchester County to nominate candidates for statewide office.
The event on Wednesday will showcase Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino's bid to challenge Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo this fall, while also highlighting the campaigns of GOP candidates for comptroller and attorney general.
The star of the convention may turn out to be Astorino's running mate, Chemung County Sheriff Christopher Moss. A critic of the state's new tougher gun law, Moss is little known downstate but likely to help Astorino appeal to the party's conservative base and to voters upstate.
Since announcing his candidacy in March, Astorino has traveled throughout the state but his name recognition remains a challenge.
Cuomo commands a strong lead in the race, according to a Siena College poll released last month. It showed the governor leading Astorino 58 percent to 28 percent. Sixty-six percent of polled voters said they either did not know who Astorino was or had no opinion about him.
The Republican nominations for governor and lieutenant governor will be Thursday.
Also expected to win the party's nod are attorney general candidate John Cahill, who served as a top aide to former Gov. George Pataki, and comptroller candidate Robert Antonacci, the comptroller of Onondaga County.
Those nominations are scheduled for Wednesday.
Though Astorino has been campaigning for months, the convention will serve as the official start to campaign season — and as a show of Republican Party unity.
Wednesday's convention agenda also features remarks from senior CNBC contributor Lawrence Kudlow and a keynote address from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.
Democrats hold their convention next week on Long Island, where they will nominate Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli for re-election.