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Political Action: Polls put Levy ahead of rivals in GOP race for N.Y. guv seat

In a recent interview I had with Republican Queens County Chairman Phil Ragusa, he discussed the reasons why his party’s executive committee voted to change its endorsement for New York state governor from Rick Lazio to Steve Levy.

He reiterated what he had said in a press release regarding this matter: “New York is in dire straits right now, and we need a governor who has proven success working in situations like this. More than ever, we have the need for a strong candidate at the top of the ticket, who even though he may have been a Democrat, is a Republican at heart.”

He also mentioned a recent poll taken by Pulse Opinion Research, in which Levy was shown to be slightly ahead of both Lazio and Buffalo developer Carl Paladino in a survey conducted among likely New York voters. Ragusa also pointed to the Rasmussen poll that showed Levy to be in the best position to run against Democratic state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

In addition, Ben Smith of Politico.com has indicated that former New York Gov. George Pataki said he knows Lazio cannot win but that he will be a party uniter as a candidate. According to Smith, Pataki said this to Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour at the Republican Governors Association.

There were 34 members present at the actual executive committee vote on the evening of April 28 after Levy had addressed the meeting. They voted overwhelmingly in favor of Levy with only two votes opposed and one abstention. Ragusa went on to say that all executive members had been sent meeting notices, including City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and Bart Haggerty.

Ragusa further indicated that neither Ulrich nor Haggerty had attended an executive committee meeting this year and were therefore not adequately representing their Republican constituents as district leaders.

Ragusa believes if a candidate at the top of the ticket does well, it will help the rest of the slates all over the state. He believes Levy, who has the support of Republican State Chairman Edward Cox and several regional vice chairmen, has a better chance of winning the governor’s office than Lazio.

As we further analyze the situation, both candidates are good public speakers and have a respectable record of public service, but in the case of Levy, he has served continually in office. First he was a member of the Suffolk County Legislature for 15 years, then he served in the state Legislature for three years and finally he has been Suffolk County executive for almost seven years.

After serving one term in this position, he was re-elected with 96 percent of the vote in 2007. In that election as the Democratic candidate, he was cross-endorsed by the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties.

Lazio, on the other hand, has never served in an elected state government position. He also has not held an executive office as a public official. Levy has never been defeated as a candidate for office while Lazio was decisively defeated in his race for the U.S. Senate in 2000.

An important aspect to this race is fund-raising capability. Lazio in his eight months of campaigning has not been able to raise sufficient funds to wage a viable state race, whereas Levy will have considerable financial resources. Levy has also been promised an $8 million to $10 million contribution from the Republican Governors Association if he becomes the official gubernatorial candidate.

The Republican governors apparently believe Levy has the best chance of being elected.

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