ROCHESTER â€” As New York Republicans gathered on Friday to begin choosing a candidate for theÂ United States Senate, they directed sharp attacks at the Democratic incumbent, SenatorÂ Kirsten E. Gillibrand, accusing her of blindly following President Obama and having an unremarkable record after three years in office.
Posters throughout the convention center here were designed like Wild West wanted posters and offered a $1,000 reward â€œfor anyone who can find Kirsten Gillibrandâ€™s core convictions.â€
She â€œhas been in lock step with Obama since Day 1,â€ said William D. Reilich, a Republican assemblyman who is also chairman of the Monroe CountyÂ Republican Party.
The convention approved three candidates who will face off in a June 26 statewide primary â€” Wendy E. Long, a Manhattan lawyer active in conservative circles; George Maragos, the Nassau County comptroller; and Representative Bob Turner, a congressman who represents portions of Brooklyn and Queens. A fourth potential candidate, Joe Carvin, the Rye Town supervisor, withdrew before the convention began.
Ms. Long won the greatest support from county delegates gathered here, but the convention did not endorse any of the candidates; primary votes will choose the nominee.
Republicans acknowledged that they had an uphill fight seeking to unseat Ms. Gillibrand. She is a well-financed candidate in a state where Democrats have a strong registration advantage and voter turnout is likely to be high during a presidential election year. No Republican has won a statewide election in New York since George E. Pataki was elected to a third term as governor in 2002.
But Republican Party activists at the convention said they saw an opening this year because of what they characterized as President Obamaâ€™s unsuccessful economic policies.
â€œThis is a year where the people of New York understand that Washington has failed us and they understand that we need people who are going to bring a new approach and not just continue the Washington insider special interest nonsense that has really hurt our country,â€ Mr. Pataki told reporters after delivering the keynote address.
As they seek to reassert themselves at the statewide level, Republicans are grappling with competing visions of how to define their party.