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In Amazing Comeback, Controversial Paladino Stages Major Victory Over Lazio

September 15, 2010

Carl Paladino (Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times)

In a tremendous comeback, gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino watched his opponent Rick Lazio fall to the wayside in the GOP primary, demonstrating the frustration and discontent Republicans had with the former congressman’s lackluster campaign. From The New York Times:

Carl P. Paladino, a Buffalo multimillionaire who jolted the Republican Party with his bluster and belligerence, rode a wave of disgust with Albany to the nomination for governor of New York on Tuesday, toppling Rick A. Lazio, a former congressman who earned establishment support but inspired little popular enthusiasm.

Mr. Paladino became one of the first Tea Party candidates to win a Republican primary for governor, in a state where the Republican Party has historically succeeded by choosing moderates.

The result was a potentially destabilizing blow for New York Republicans. It put at the top of the party’s ticket a volatile newcomer who has forwarded e-mails to friends containing racist jokes and pornographic images, espoused turning prisons into dormitories where welfare recipients could be given classes on hygiene, and defended an ally’s comparison of the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, who is Jewish, to “an Antichrist or a Hitler.”

Yet Mr. Paladino, 64, energized Tea Party advocates and social conservatives with white-hot rhetoric and a damn-the-establishment attitude, promising to “take a baseball bat to Albany” to dislodge the state’s entrenched political class. He also outspent Mr. Lazio, pouring more than $3 million of his fortune into the race, while Mr. Lazio spent just over $2 million.

“We are mad as hell,” Mr. Paladino said in a halting but exuberant victory speech in Buffalo shortly after 11 p.m. “New Yorkers are fed up. Tonight the ruling class knows. They have seen it now. There is a people’s revolution. The people have had enough.”

Referring to criticism from what he said were liberal elites, he added: “They say I am too blunt. Well, I am, and I don’t apologize for it. They say I am an angry man, and that’s true. We are all angry.”

Mr. Paladino, a first-time candidate who roamed the state with a pit bull named Duke and stayed late after campaign events to hug supporters, swamped Mr. Lazio by a ratio of nearly two to one, lifted by strong showings in Erie and Niagara Counties, where his message of economic populism was especially resonant.

His defeat of Mr. Lazio, 52, raises the possibility of a lopsided general election contest with Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, who has amassed a $24 million war chest and whose commanding lead in the polls has lent him an air of invincibility.

Still, Mr. Paladino’s unpredictability and devil-may-care approach to campaigning, coupled with his willingness to say almost anything and to spend millions from his fortune, could pose unwelcome challenges for the exceptionally risk-averse Mr. Cuomo.

Mr. Paladino’s platform calls for cutting taxes by 10 percent in six months, eliminating cherished public pensions for legislators, and using eminent domain to prevent the construction of a mosque and community center near ground zero. Those proposals could make Mr. Cuomo’s farthest-reaching reform ideas seem meek by comparison.

The sweeping agenda caught fire with Republicans, especially those far from New York City and distrustful of the party’s moderate wing.

“Grass-roots conservatives were energized in tidal wave proportions,” said former Representative Thomas M. Reynolds of New York, an influential leader in the state party. But more moderate Republicans said they feared that Mr. Paladino’s rhetoric could alienate swing voters and independents, and doom other Republican candidates in November.

At Mr. Lazio’s election-night gathering, just after Mr. Paladino’s victory was declared on television, gloom filled the room.

“We just handed him the governorship,” said Bryan Cooper, 43, a teacher and a Republican district leader from Manhattan. “We handed Cuomo the governorship.”

The victory capped a topsy-turvy race in which the Republican state chairman, Edward F. Cox, doubting Mr. Lazio’s chances, tried to recruit a Democrat to carry the party’s banner, but then found himself outflanked by an insurgent whom he and much of the party’s leadership had denounced.

A businessman who made millions in real estate in the Buffalo area, Mr. Paladino entered the race in April and mustered only 8 percent of the party’s support at its convention in May, after reports of his e-mails drew condemnation from Republican and Democratic leaders alike.

But with Roger J. Stone Jr., the flamboyant former Nixon operative, advising him, he circumvented the party leadership, petitioned his way onto the primary ballot by collecting 30,000 signatures and quietly cobbled together a coalition of disaffected groups.

Mr. Lazio, resting on double-digit leads in polls, refused to debate Mr. Paladino, seeing no gain in giving him the exposure.

“It was a clear mistake not to engage Paladino,” said John J. Faso, the Republican nominee for governor in 2006. “He allowed Carl Paladino to speak to the voters in 30-second ads.”

Mr. Paladino unleashed a barrage of direct-mail advertisements and cable television commercials, pouring $650,000 into his campaign the first week of September, and by the weekend, one poll showed the race in a dead heat. Mr. Lazio and his allies responded with last-minute attacks on Mr. Paladino’s fitness to be governor, but by Tuesday many party insiders were wringing their hands over whether Mr. Lazio had erred by not doing more to counter Mr. Paladino earlier on.

Both candidates mounted all-out efforts to get their supporters to the polls, with Mr. Paladino relying on a huge turnout upstate.

In Orchard Park, a Buffalo suburb, Darryl Radt, who described himself as a regular primary voter, said he had come to the American Legion post to vote for Mr. Paladino “because he’s mad as hell and so am I.”

Ron Wojcik, 67, a retiree, said he was frustrated with Albany and Washington and wanted someone different. “I want somebody who’s honest and hasn’t been sucked into the system already,” Mr. Wojcik said. “The system always seems to change people.”

It is not clear how quickly, if at all, Republicans will unite around Mr. Paladino. In his concession speech, Mr. Lazio, who won the nomination of the smaller but influential Conservative Party on Tuesday, fell short of embracing Mr. Paladino’s candidacy.

“I am going to be part of the public dialogue,” Mr. Lazio said as some in the crowd fought back tears. “I am going to contribute to this effort.”

Democrats on Tuesday night were already discussing ways to exploit Mr. Paladino’s vulnerabilities, and they questioned whether he could truly call himself an outsider. They noted that he was a landlord for state agencies and had poured tens of thousands of dollars into the campaigns of Democrats and Republicans in Albany.

In his victory speech, Mr. Paladino alluded to the uphill climb he faces in taking on Mr. Cuomo and repairing the state’s battered finances.

“Tomorrow morning begins the toughest part of this campaign, the longest haul, the heaviest lift, and I am going to need every single one of you,” he said to a room that was a sea of orange, his campaign’s color. “We are going to have to work harder and fight harder than we have ever fought before. We are going to rebuild New York together.”

He demanded that Mr. Cuomo meet him as an equal. “I have a message for Andrew Cuomo tonight,” Mr. Paladino said. “I challenge you to a series of debates. We have so many questions to ask you, Andrew.

“Let’s stand toe to toe in an exchange of ideas and let the people decide.”

With that, Mr. Paladino’s daughter Danielle took the microphone and led the crowd in singing “God Bless America.”

  1. Young Republican permalink
    September 15, 2010 7:47 am

    Lazio won Brooklyn 56%-44%, but with 8,152 Brooklyn Republicans coming out to vote in the GOP primary compared to roughly 4,500 Brooklyn Republicans who showed up four years ago to vote in the GOP primary 2006, we are moving in the right direction.

  2. Brochino permalink
    September 15, 2010 1:44 pm

    I am an establishment supporter but I deviated with my support for Paldino. I knew he would win but I dont believe anybody felt he would win by such a ridiculous margin.

    • Bocconcini permalink
      September 15, 2010 1:59 pm

      How anyone has the face to call themselves an “establishment supporter” is beyond me. You and your ilk are ruining our party. Thank God you were humbled so handily yesterday.

  3. Carl the Fool permalink
    September 15, 2010 3:32 pm

    It’s unfortunate that the party will meet its end this year with a fool like Carl Paladino holding the reins.

  4. Lowell Thomas George permalink
    September 15, 2010 5:51 pm

    Paladino is a good guy.
    He and I shared an eight-ball at a rest stop near Albany.

  5. john brown permalink
    September 15, 2010 9:48 pm

    Ok Peter beat Lucretia, get over it.

  6. Prong permalink
    September 15, 2010 11:27 pm

    The Battle of the Have-Nots.
    They’re all running through the same door.
    Fighting for the chance to get trounced by Abbate and McMahon.
    What a life that Gerry O’Brien has.
    He’ll work with ANYBODY for a buck.

  7. “Everybody” has heard that “insanity” is sometimes “defined” as doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. permalink
    September 16, 2010 8:30 pm

    The Brooklyn Republican Party is still under Eaton leadership as far as most people seem to know. The proof of that is that it is about to try to take more of Mr. Republican Leader Eaton’s old bad medicine, and Eaton is telling them they will be able to avoid most of the serious consequences. Not a very smart doctor, that County Leader Eaton.

    Eaton and his only elected Republican Marty Golden are “Dis-dancing with the Star” Paladino their own and the rest of the Brooklyn Republicans’ peril.

    Here’s a simple “to do list” County Leader Eaton, in words that you and your only elected Republican official Marty Golden might understand:

    Item one: get the Brooklyn GOP 100% behind Paladino’s gubernatorial campaign right away, or else you and your Brooklyn Republican Party get bitch-slapped from here to next Thursday. If the Conservative Party doesn’t get on board right away, then drop them like a hot penny and all their candidates immediately, make your boy Golden earn his keep as a Republican for a change; and you try being the real leader for a change, bitch-slap him you’ll like it I’m sure. Especially be careful, if Grimm doesn’t actively support Paladino, don’t support Grimm unless he does, he’ll have to be kept at an arm’s length at the closest. If Grimm and Paladino run as a team get on that team at all costs; it’s political life or death–yours, Mr. Humpty-Dumpty County Leader!

    Item two: here’s the “Catch-22” tricky part; obviously, Mr. Eaton, you and Golden might get split up split up here too – get the Brooklyn GOP 100% behind Grimm’s congressional campaign right away, or else you and your Brooklyn Republican Party get bitch-slapped from here to next Friday, and Golden gets to bitch-slap you and he will. If you think it’s the same problem different day, that’s right, same problem different day, but reversed. If the Conservative Party doesn’t see you getting completely on board with Grimm right away, without any bullshit conditions, also if they stick with Lazio, they’ll want you to keep your distance from Paladino. If you don’t come through then Long will drop you like a hot penny and all the jointly backed candidates will be told to show their loyalty to the Conservatives, including your one and only State Senator Golden, who owes much more to them than he does to you.

    Item Three: Don’t screw up either Item One or Item Two. You have almost no good options, Mr. Republican Leader, all the options are with the winning Republican candidates you tried to screw really bad. Now, it’s your turn to have a drink from their spittoons and to eat their used urinal cakes. Also, it’s a good bet somebody’s going to give you one hell of a bitch-slapping sometime between now and November. Maybe two; maybe three; maybe more.

  8. Gerry O'Brien enabled by Egeln $$$ permalink
    September 17, 2010 8:11 am

    In this article: Egeln quotes O’Brien. O’Brien reaches out to Egeln to breathe life into his dying consultancy. Boo Hoo!

    “’Carl Paladino’s victory is a real turning point for the Republican Party,’” said political consultant Gerry O’Brien of Brooklyn, seeing the “’most interesting gubernatorial race in over 20 years. He was able to send a message enabling voters to send a message to Albany.’”

    “The rank-and-file Republican voters, he said, stood up to and rebuked the party leaders’ choice and decision-making ways, shaking up the GOP with grassroots anger.”

    What a crock of bull! He’s trying to position himself with another potential client. He’ll work for anybody who’ll pay. Palledino’s got the bucks and Gerry’s got dollar signs in his eyes. Ughh!

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