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NYT: Even in G.O.P., Lazio’s Bid for Governor Is Hard Sell

January 4, 2010

With 2010’s elections now within sight, Rick Lazio faces a difficult race for Governor, the Times reports:

CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. — Rick A. Lazio is on a tear: ripping into corruption and cowardice in Albany, blasting state leaders’ addiction to spending and taxes, warning that New York is on the verge of losing a generation of job seekers to economic decline.

“It breaks my heart,” Mr. Lazio, the former Long Island congressman, tells a few dozen Republicans here in the Finger Lakes. “People are fed up, they’re disgusted, they’re disillusioned, and they’re scared.”

Now comes the ask. “It is our turn to fix this mess, and not to leave this for our kids and our grandchildren to clean up. Please join me in this great mission.”

Not a hand claps.

Political comebacks can be tough, and Mr. Lazio’s exit from the stage, after his disastrous 2000 Senate contest with Hillary Rodham Clinton, was humbling. But even among New York Republicans, with whom he is personally popular, Mr. Lazio’s fiery pitch for his gubernatorial campaign hasn’t yet ignited any prairie fires.

Many party regulars were deflated by former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani’s decision not to run. And they seem resigned to the idea that Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo — whose poll numbers are formidable — will overtake Gov. David A. Paterson to be the Democratic nominee, and could be all but impossible to beat.

After listening to Mr. Lazio’s speech, Matt Kellogg, a law student, offers this assessment: “If he runs against Paterson, he’s got a good shot.”

“He has a lot of what it would take,” says Gary Baxter, the Ontario County treasurer. “I admire him for taking on a challenge.”

Mr. Lazio, 51, whose hair is grayer and shaggier since his Senate run, is undeterred. Asked after a long day on the trail why he had not chosen to challenge Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand instead of running for governor, he bristled. “Maybe it would be an easier race,” he said. “But it’s not about me,” he added sharply. “I’m not looking for a job. I don’t need this — and I definitely don’t need that.”

Indeed, Mr. Lazio did quite well as a Wall Street lobbyist, first for the Financial Services Forum, a trade group for chief executives that paid him more than $900,000 in 2004, according to its tax filings, then for JPMorgan Chase. He left Long Island behind, moving with his family to Manhattan, and rebuffed entreaties to run for Nassau County executive in 2001, for his old congressional seat in 2002, for Suffolk County executive in 2003 and for attorney general in 2006.

But then, he said, he watched Gov. David A. Paterson fail to rein in state spending last year, and began to think about challenging him. Later, while driving his oldest daughter, Molly, to visit colleges, he began brooding over whether she might one day feel forced to leave New York in search of a job.

“I figured, if I’m thinking about that for my child, imagine the hundreds of thousands of other New Yorkers who are going through the same thing,” he said. “There’s a lot of politicians who wring their hands and say, ‘I’m going to wait for the right opening,’ ” he added. “I only thought: this state is in desperate need of a debate, and we are in real trouble. And it’s not self-correcting.” (The December night he visited Canandaigua, his daughter won early admission to Hamilton College, in Clinton, N.Y.)

If Mr. Lazio is remembered for anything in the 2000 race, which he entered after Mr. Giuliani’s late withdrawal, it is for walking across the stage during a debate and asking Mrs. Clinton to sign a no-soft-money pledge; the ill-advised stunt made him look like a bully. Intent on attacking her as a carpetbagger who saw the job as a springboard, he never told his own story and looked inexperienced next to his opponent, then the first lady.

Now, with more time to hone his message — and with help from Arthur J. Finkelstein, political guru to his Republican forebears Alfonse M. D’Amato and George E. Pataki — Mr. Lazio assures voters of his record as a village attorney, prosecutor, county legislator and four-term congressman. He tells of his stint at “probably the best-managed bank in the world,” where he learned from people “with a different level of intellect” who did not care what party anyone belonged to.

He says he will govern without concern about being re-elected and with a discipline Albany is unaccustomed to: a strict hiring freeze, a hard property-tax cap, conservative budgeting, no more passing on the cost of state-mandated programs to local governments and structural reforms like a unicameral Legislature, an ethics overhaul and tighter campaign-finance rules.

“I know what this turnaround looks like: It is ugly,” Mr. Lazio says, imagining his first draconian budget and labor negotiations. “When I do what I need to do, we’re going to see name-calling and picketing and commercials, and stuff that’s really tough to see. And I get that, and I accept it, and I approach this job knowing that this is part of the deal. But I just want to get this state in a place where my successor has a better chance than we have right now.”

Yet Mr. Lazio’s tough talk has its limitations. Meeting with a group of business leaders in Buffalo, he deflected, four times, when they asked if he would lay off state workers to close state budget gaps, which are expected to be in the billions. He barely promised to cut jobs through attrition, instead saying there could be savings in streamlined contracting.

His audience grew frustrated. “Don’t tell me we’re going to improve purchasing,” said Kevin Murphy, the regional president of Bank of America, after Mr. Lazio had departed. “It’s almost an insult to the people in the room. I think in this environment, people are beyond being sugarcoated. There’s an opportunity for someone who wants to be bold.”

Mr. Lazio’s advisers say there is plenty of time for boldness; first he must capture the nomination. A potential Republican rival, the Erie County executive, Chris Collins, produced a letter last week from 15 Republican county chairmen urging him to run.

But with Mr. Giuliani out of the picture, Mr. Lazio is making the most of his head start. He already has the endorsements of nine county leaders representing more than 25 percent of the state, enough to secure a spot on the ballot. And he expects more, including big counties in the New York City suburbs, by early January.

Oddly, but understandably, Mr. Lazio finds himself defending the governor he wants to defeat, while hectoring the attorney general at every opportunity.

“There’s competency issues,” he says of Mr. Paterson, “but I don’t doubt that he’s trying to move things in the right direction. But Andrew Cuomo is not stepping forward, he’s not providing leadership, and he could. It’s almost as if people around him think the worse things get, the more things collapse, the better off it’s going to be for him politically.”

Beyond the primary, Mr. Lazio’s strategy, it seems, is to be there and hope for a break. If Mr. Paterson somehow wins the nomination or Mr. Cuomo survives a bloody primary — and a possible run by Steve Levy, the Suffolk County executive, could make a Democratic free-for-all more likely — he will count his blessings. But if the way is cleared for Mr. Cuomo, Mr. Lazio may be seen as heading into a gun battle with a slingshot.

Then again, he reminds skeptics that Republican underdogs in Nassau and Westchester, vastly outspent, upset formidable Democratic incumbents in November.

“We have the wind at our back,” Mr. Lazio said in Canandaigua. “It is the people’s voices back there, saying, ‘We have had enough.’ ”


From The New York Times.

  1. Raymond Hart Massey (as Gail Wynand) permalink
    January 5, 2010 2:36 pm

    “The Banner”


    At least Rick Lazio is in the race for governor. Where is the rest of the Republican Party?

    [The following is a reprint from the Editorial in an earlier edition of “The Banner”.] ….The Republican Party must find its voice—nationally, at each of the several states of the nation and at the various localities, city and county, in each and every one of “These United States”.

    Nationally, the Obama administration has demonstrated its inability to lead, uphold or defend. For their part, the Republicans have neither led, followed, nor gotten out of the way.

    As and for the Republicans in New York State the future remains especially problematic. Democratic control continues to be an unmitigated and evolving “man-made disaster”. Wake up, smell the coffee, we’re already in 2010!!!! To date, there still are not enough Republican candidates who have announced for each of the state-wide slots. Candidates for the NYS Assembly and Senate are also scarcer ‘n hens’ teeth. Where is the Republican leadership—Ed Cox on down to the county leaders?


    With nobody to say it, can anything be said [if no tree falls in the forest—you know the rest]? Without form, can there be any content? If not now, when?

    One wonders, as Andy Williams once said, “Stevie, can you hear me—Stevie, can you see me?”

  2. Young Republican permalink
    January 5, 2010 3:19 pm

    With Steve Levy now in the race against Paterson for the democratic nomination, this can cause a split in the anti-Paterson vote. Can this help the Republican candidate (Lazio or Collins)?

  3. Young Republican permalink
    January 5, 2010 3:32 pm

    Braking News!!! According to the Daily News Simcha Felder is resigning his seat on the City Council in order to become deputy comptroller under Liu. This will cause a special election which republicans can and must win. In the last election Felder ran on the democratic, republican, and conservative lines and received 48.7% on the DEM line, 42.5% on the REP line, and 8.6% on CON line. the republican and conservative vote combined was 51.2% but he still supported Quinn for speaker of the council. This district voted overwhelmingly for McCain in the presidential election, and this is our chance to prove to ourselves and to the rest of Brooklyn that the republican party and conservative principles are still alive in Brooklyn.

  4. Wag-the-Dog permalink
    January 5, 2010 4:48 pm

    The chalk on the Simcha Felder [not yet vacated] seat is that it’s Noach Dear’s, if he wants it. Hint: if Dear is in the special election fray, bet the ranch—give the points up to about 42-43 percent in a two-way race, and about 25-33 percent in a multi-candidate race.

    • Tommy Nast permalink
      January 5, 2010 5:26 pm

      If Noach Dear runs, Republicans and Democrats are going to have to band together to keep that criminal out of elected office!

  5. January 5, 2010 5:08 pm

    In preparation for the Special Election that will be held in the 44th Council District due to the probable resignation of Simcha Felder, the Fiorello LaGuardia Republican Organization is launching a search for qualified Republican candidates to run for this seat. The 49th Assembly District contains 30 Election Districts out of 123 Election Districts in the 44th Council District.
    In a Special Election there is no party designation, however, it is obvious that a Republican candidate would be and should be supported by the Republican Party.
    This is one of the most possible Councilmanic Districts that the Republicans could win since some previous elections have shown that Simcha Felder, a Democrat, who used to receive the Wilson-Pakula from the Republican Party, received almost the same amount of votes on the Republican line than on the Democratic line.
    A strong and qualified candidate could pull a surprise victory.
    We invite any Republican who lives in the 44th Council District to contact the Fiorello LaGuardia Republican Organization through the Atlas blogroll.

  6. Wag-the-Dog permalink
    January 5, 2010 5:32 pm

    The great Fiorello La Guardia Regular Republican Organization is “inviting” Republicans to run in the 44th Councilmatic District. That speaks volumes! Thirty (30) EDs—but are there any candidate(s) from that club?

    What about somebody from the 44th AD (either side)?

    Who’s Jonathan Judge’s candidate?

    Maybe there’s a graduate from Craig Eaton’s Republican Candidate Academy— both the Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy were winners in their bowl games— maybe academy products are on a roll.

  7. Young Republican permalink
    January 6, 2010 12:07 am

    I found a Borough Park Jewish blog talking about Joe Lazer, Noah Dear, David Greenfield and Pinny Ringel. Does anyone know anything about any of them? (Obviously we Know who Noah Dear is… but the others…)

  8. Isaac D. permalink
    January 6, 2010 3:09 am

    The only competent, qualified individual worthy of serving the 44th is Jonathan Judge. He is intelligent, knows city politics like the back of his hand, and will do more to improve New York politics than anyone I can think of, even at his young age.

    • Young Republican permalink
      January 6, 2010 10:24 am

      Anyone who is going to win is going to need the backing and support of the Jewish Orthodox community. They tend to vote as block, and they tend to vote for their own. I have seen Pinny Ringel’s name floating around, though I don’t know if it is serious or it’s just that some people would like it to be serious, but it sounds like people in borough parklike him, he’s a community liaison to Simcha Felder, he is a member of the 70th precinct community council so maybe Jonathan Judge knows who he is, I believe he is a member too, he’s facebook page says he political views are “Republican and Democratic Party,” he supports (at least on facebook he does) people like Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Eric Canter, he’s worked on Mayor Bloomberg’s re-election campaign, (support from the mayor can’t hurt,) so who knows…

    • Isaac D. permalink
      January 6, 2010 11:48 am

      I stand by by statement. What a loss to not have him run. The 44th will lose the chance of a lifetime.

  9. January 6, 2010 8:50 am

    David Greenfield tried to convince me to run as a Democrat last year. He raised a lot of money before term limits was overturned.

  10. Wag-the-Dog permalink
    January 6, 2010 9:00 am

    A few good reasons for Jonathan J to put his name forward are:

    a. It would make Jerry O’Brien happy [just think about the mailers he could put together for/against JJ];

    b. Craig Eaton could take all the credit for a good/bad outcome of his top friend/enemy; and

    c. JJ could get into Gene Berardelli’s face and say, “Shut the f…-up about pounding pavement.

    • January 6, 2010 1:46 pm

      While we don’t always agree on every single thing, I consider Jonathan a friend, admire his hard work with the YRs, and would gladly support “pound the pavement” for him. In fact, I value the discourse Jonathan and I have had in the past and look forward to more in the future:

      “We didn’t agree with everything the other said, but the dialogue was its own reward. We both left off with an understanding that we’re both on the same side, and that there was a lot of work to be done. We made no plans for the future, but made a commitment to keep working together, even if from opposite sides of an issue.”

      • Isaac D. permalink
        January 6, 2010 3:03 pm

        Very commendable. We should all step up for our party and for our young leaders.

  11. Hatikvah permalink
    January 6, 2010 11:56 am

    Jonathan Judge would make an excellent City Councilman. He’s a Republican but knows how to work with Democrats. He’s principled and understands city gov’t better than anyone. I would support him.

    Brooklyn’s Eric Ulrich, eh?

    • Queens GOPer permalink
      January 6, 2010 4:28 pm

      Nice comparison 😉

    • SI GOPer permalink
      January 7, 2010 12:47 am

      I agree. Ulrich is a good comparison.

  12. Back to Lazio permalink
    January 6, 2010 11:58 am

    Aren’t the consultants the problem? Are we not learning from our past errors?

    In the Times article it states:

    “Now, with more time to hone his message — and with help from Arthur J. Finkelstein, political guru to his Republican forebears Alfonse M. D’Amato and George E. Pataki — Mr. Lazio assures voters of his record as a village attorney, prosecutor, county legislator and four-term congressman.”

    At this site: we learn the dangers of consultants and how they’ve destroyed the party here in New York.

    “Since the mid-1990s, however, New York’s Republican Party has been self-destructing. It all started when Governor George Pataki’s political consultants convinced him that the best approach to winning elections was to abandon conservative principles, become Democratic-lite on fiscal and social issues and buy off government employee and health care unions.

    “This leftist pandering strategy may have worked for Pataki, against weak opponents, but it has had a devastating impact on his party and our state. In a twelve-year period, 1998-2008, the GOP lost the office of governor, attorney general, a U.S. Senator, 12 assemblymen, their 42-year hold on the state senate and nine congressional seats.”

    Shouldn’t we be learning from our past mistakes?

  13. Lora permalink
    January 6, 2010 4:27 pm

    The Bay Ridge Cabal’s special Atlas Task Force (which consists of two individuals who both worked for failed Gentile challenger Capano) are so furious and desperate over Atlas Shrugs in Brooklyn that they have accused everyone and their mother of endorsing the site. They’re pulling their hair out trying to find out who’s behind the blog instead of being real men and answering for the party leadership’s sins.

    They need patronage jobs.

    Hey Bloomberg, any openings?

  14. Orson Welles (as Charles Foster Kane) permalink
    January 7, 2010 9:52 am

    Scene: Death Bed [pan in—ultra close-up]; mustached lips

    “Rosebud…, that’s not right….er, Sutliff”


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