Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb on Monday urged Republican Chairman Ed Cox to remain neutral in the race for the GOP nomination for governor.

“I don’t need the support from him publicly,” Kolb said. “I just need him to be neutral and be a chairman which means whoever wants to run, give them an opportunity. Don’t do backroom deals, don’t do phone calls telling people who you think you want or who you think it’s going to be. The state chairman should be out there raising money and finding candidates.”

Kolb, who spoke with the state Conservative Party earlier in the day, said he wanted a candidate to stand up to incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat seeking a third term.

“I think it’s time for everyone to stop acting that way. I’m talking about people who that rely on state funding that are afraid to speak up. They’re forced or had their arm’s twisted and if they don’t there are repercussions,” he said. “This is all of our state, it’s not just his state.”

Sen. John DeFrancisco, a Syracuse Republican, is expected to join the race for governor on Tuesday with an announcement.

Along with ex-Erie County Executive Joel Giambra, there would be three Republicans in the race.

On the surface, Kolb would have a difficult path to the nomination. He has little to no statewide name recognition and, like any of the GOP candidates at this point, would likely struggle to be even remotely competitive in fundraising against Cuomo’s $30 million war chest.

And yet Kolb has advantages: He’s voted against liberal provisions that were included in state budgets, such as a minimum wage hike and a paid family leave program. DeFrancisco speaking with the state Conservative Party on Sunday had to explain why he voted for the budget that included those items after opposing them, critical of Albany’s process of stuffing unrelated items into the spending plan.

Kolb also has GOP lawmakers in the Assembly minority. The conference is a small one, but geographically its spread out across the state, giving them ties to county chairs who would have a say in the nominating process.

Kolb picked up his first endorsement from one of his fellow conference members on Monday, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, the party’s 2017 candidate for mayor.

“Brian has really provided smart alternatives to what Andrew Cuomo is offering,” Malliotakis said. “I’m proud to endorse Brian Kolb for Governor. His priorities – lowering taxes, creating jobs, and ending corruption in Albany – are exactly what New Yorkers are looking for in our next Governor.”