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Political Action: Lazio, Levy vie for nod from GOP in 3-way race

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It is looking as if a confrontation is developing when the Republican State Committee meets in convention in May or June to decide who its statewide candidates will be. That is true of the governorship, where three candidates are competing for the Republican Party endorsement.

They are former U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and Buffalo developer Carl Paladino. Whoever the convention chooses as the official party candidate may be challenged in a party primary election in September by one or both of the other two candidates.

As the two leading candidates, Levy and Lazio are looked at from the standpoint of who is more likely to gain the Republican nomination for governor. Levy has certain advantages at this time since he has the support of Republican State Chairman Ed Cox and a majority of regional party vice chairmen.

Moreover, Levy has far more background and experience in government, particularly in the executive branch, having been elected twice as Suffolk County executive, in which he has had a successful career in dealing with budgetary issues. He has also served in the state Legislature.

In the case of Lazio, he has no government executive experience and has never served in any state elective office. The last time he ran for office was 10 years ago against Hillary Clinton for the U.S. Senate. He was badly defeated in that race.

An important aspect to his gubernatorial race is fund-raising. Levy has more than $4 million in his campaign treasury with the ability to raise more money. Lazio, who got an early start in the campaign, has not had much success in his fund-raising efforts, having raised less than $1 million during most of the campaign. It is questionable whether Lazio will have the funds to run in a primary, much less a general election.

On March 20, the state Conservative Party Executive Committee, by a vote of 14-5, indicated its support for Lazio, but the final test of who the Conservative Party will support comes when its state committee meets in convention in June. At that time, the party’s final designation will be made.

If the Republicans choose Levy as their candidate, it would then be difficult for the Conservative Party to choose Lazio, since state election law states that for a political party to remain on the ballot, it has to get at least 50,000 votes for the office of governor. If Lazio runs in a Republican primary against Levy and loses, then runs on the Conservative Party line in November and fails to get 50,000 votes, it means the Conservative Party will be removed from the ballot until it can achieve 50,000 votes for a gubernatorial candidate.

That is what happened to both the state Liberal Party and also the Right to Life Party, when in recent years they failed to attract 50,000 votes in the gubernatorial elections. Both parties were removed from the ballot. Neither of these two parties has returned.

In the 38th State Assembly District in western Queens, incumbent Assemblyman Michael Miller (D-Glendale), who was elected in a special election last year, is gearing up for a possible Democratic party primary. He replaced former Assemblyman Tony Seminerio, who resigned.

Miller has never been tested in a party primary election. Community activist Nick Comaianni has indicated he is running in a primary against Miller, although up to now he has not officially announced his candidacy. There may be another primary candidate as well.

Comaianni opposes raising taxes. He believes we should be cutting failed government programs. He indicated that Miller has not spoken out against raising taxes.

Donna Caltabiano is the Republican candidate. Caltabiano ran against Miller last year in the special election when he also had Conservative and Independence party endorsements. She expects to do a lot better this year in the November general election.

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