Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What The GOP Did

Weld wins GOP straw poll for governor, Faso gains support

Associated Press Writer

December 12, 2005, 5:04 PM EST

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld on Monday won a nonbinding straw poll of GOP candidates for New York's governor that was weighted toward counties with strong Republican turnouts. But John Faso's bid, framed as a more socially conservative alternative, attracted an equal number of county party bosses.

Each campaign claimed victory in the vote that revealed a tangible split in the Republican ranks over who will run for governor in 2006. One goal of Monday's meeting of Republican leaders was to find a consensus candidate to raise money and take on Eliot Spitzer, the current attorney general and only announced Democratic candidate, who has strong leads in the polls and in fundraising.

Pirro Urged to Drop N.Y. Senate Bid

Associated Press Writer

December 12, 2005, 5:44 PM EST

ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York's Republican Party county leaders recommended Monday that Jeanine Pirro abandon her struggling campaign to challenge Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and instead run for state attorney general.

State GOP Chairman Stephen Minarik said no vote was taken but that was the consensus of the county leaders. Rockland County Chairman Vincent Reda said the support for a Pirro switch was "overwhelming."

Pirro issued a terse response.

"I remain a candidate for U.S. Senate, but I greatly respect the opinion of the county chairs and their confidence in my abilities as a statewide candidate," said Pirro, a high-profile Westchester County district attorney.
Again, an interesting battle appears to be shaping up in the New York GOP, one that could cleave the party into the ultraconservative wing under Faso and Bruno, and the more moderate suburban party under Pirro and Weld. It also kicks Golisano to the curb, at least for governor.
County Leaders Wonder About Right Turn

Published: December 13, 2005
ALBANY, Dec. 12 - As Republican county leaders gathered on Monday to create a plan to retain their hold on the New York governorship in 2006, the choice facing them was not unlike the choice facing national Democrats: to appeal to their base, or cleave to the middle.

There is tension between the more conservative leaders from upstate and the more liberal leaders representing suburban voters outside New York City. And there is concern that in trying to reach out to Democratic voters, as Gov. George E. Pataki did in his successful campaigns, the party has steered from its base and clouded its message.

Fifty-six county chairmen and chairwomen met at the urging of the party chairman, Stephen J. Minarik III, who had hoped to have a consensus candidate for governor by now and a clear picture of the party's statewide ticket.

But in a closed-door meeting, 23 of the county leaders backed William F. Weld, a former Massachusetts governor running for the same job in New York.

Another 23 backed John J. Faso, a former Assemblyman. Mr. Faso is seen by some as more conservative but has a fiscally focused style similar to that of Mr. Weld.

Two voted for Randy A. Daniels, the former secretary of state. Eight voters abstained and six chose not to attend, including two powerful leaders from Long Island.

Michael St. Leger, chairman of rural Madison County, said he believed that in the race for governor, the party needed "a candidate who can keep the traditional upstate Republican base, yet appeal to a more moderate position downstate or in the larger metropolitan areas."

In other words, sort of a George Pataki 2.0.

"We need a candidate with that kind of appeal across the state," Mr. St. Leger said of the current governor. "I think it's a difficult thing to accomplish, but the right candidate can do that."

John LiGreci, chairman of Sullivan County and a Weld supporter, said: "I believe that right now every party is a little different than it was 10 or 15 years ago. Right now, if you were to be a liberal Democrat, you probably would not fare very well in New York. If you were to be an ultraconservative Republican, you would not fare very well. You have to either be a moderate Republican or a moderate Democrat."

Others, like Assemblyman Patrick Manning, who is running for governor but got no votes on Monday, saw it differently. Mr. Manning said that his party is at a crossroads, torn between Rockefeller Republicans and Reagan Republicans. And he said he wants to take a hard right.

"The days of Democrat-Lite are going to be over at the end of this election, and hopefully it's at the hands of rank-and-file Republicans who are demanding it," said Mr. Manning, who at 6 feet 11 inches bills himself as the nation's tallest elected official.

John Spencer, a former Yonkers mayor who is a long-shot candidate for the Senate, said that a more ideologically committed candidate could win statewide.

Mr. Spencer, another conservative Republican, said: "It's like a false sense of blue. Because over 10, 15 years, there hasn't been a conservative Republican choice to redden it up, so to speak."
(I quoted extensively to avoid the dreaded "Times archive syndrome")

See, Faso would be an acceptable candidate to the rural, upstate voters, whose thought processes mimic red state philosophies (or orangutans, but that's probably an insult to orangutans). But Weld would have a Rolodex that includes his having been a Pioneer in the 2000 Bush campaign (contributing or raising at least $100,000 for that race). Tough to beat that kind of money. A primary for either party would mean shunting valuable resources from the general election against Eliot Spitzer (or vice versa, if the Dems have one), and would leave a depleted state party war chest for the race against Hillary.

I'm thinking the Senate race will shape up more as an early Democratic primary for President: if the GOP can make the Senate race close, suddenly the Democratic presidential race becomes more than a one horse entry. If Hillary can dominate her opponent, then it settles any unease that Dems might have about Hillary being unable to maintain the liberal base while trying to appeal to even more moderates.

That's not to say the liberal base is any slam dunk, but it wouldn't take much to shore that up.

So the outcome? I predicted yesterday that Tom Golisano will be asked to run against Hillary for Senate. I estimate he'll need to spend about $100 million to have any significant impact in her standings, but he has that kind of money, plus he'd attract an awful lot of carpetbagged money from conservative groups outside New York interested in watching Hill squirm.

I think Pirro will be made an offer. Lieutenant Governor?