New York’s GOP lacks big-name players
My commiserations to the poor Republicans. If the Brown-Coakley Democratic disaster in Massachusetts is any sign of the sweep of the red tide of Republicanism, the Republicans should be in a position to take it all in what promises to be one of the most important New York state elections ever. Every statewide office holder will be running at a time when not one but two New York governors found themselves over their heads in personal woes. I think the Republicans should be ready to sweep New York, but they have a huge problem. As they say in baseball-land, “They have no bench.” That’s right, at a time when the GOP should by all rights slaughter the Democrats, they don’t have any big-name candidates with statewide reputations.
We’ve heard again and again that Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki and their failed past major leaguers would sweep in and save their hides. For a lot of reasons, they will not. Giuliani won’t do it because he hasn’t got the guts; because he has the criminal, Bernie Kerik, hanging around his neck; because the luster of 9-11 leadership has faded; because he is making far too much money and would have to live under ethics laws, either those of New York or the far worse and more difficult laws of the U.S. Congress. So you can forget about Rudy Giuliani, no matter how many times journalists tell you that he is on the comeback trail. He tried it in a failed quest for the presidency and got the tar beat out of him as he pursued a so-called “Florida strategy” that apparently was designed to target grateful New York snowbirds who thought Giuliani had cleaned up the Big Apple. Right before that primary, The New York Times wrote the most devastating anti-Giuliani editorial of all times, and he went down in flames. He is certainly no hero to many diverse populations in New York that think, to put it too kindly, his policies were tinged with racism.
As for Pataki, he knew enough to get out while the getting was good and he is not about to give up his law practice or to alienate his lovely wife by flying down to Washington for several days of bachelor living each week. If he runs against Kirsten Gillibrand for U.S. Senate and wins, there will be no free helicopter to fly him home every night. Pataki also knows a good thing when he sees it and a rain-making law practice is making him a rich man. Nope, he won’t do it either, although I have to say that his ego is more likely to put him back in the game than Giuliani. I say that he won’t do it.
This, of course, means that some relatively unknown Republican like Rick Lazio, who is running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, might get the chance and unexpectedly win, just as George Pataki did in 1994. Also, there is a potential Democratic turncoat, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, who the GOP is trying to get to run as a Republican.
The public is really ticked off. If Andrew Cuomo self destructs, you might have Massachusetts all over again. If Republican State Chairman Ed Cox can find someone like New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to run for governor, it will be a whole new game. While that is unlikely to happen, anything is possible. There is a huge amount of talk out there about Andrew Cuomo’s role as HUD secretary in creating the worst economic downfall in the country’s history. If that takes off, things could change dramatically.
But, for now, despite circumstances that would make any Republican happy, the Elephants just don’t have any big names. There are very few Mike Bloombergs out there who can self-finance elections. Big money is very important in New York and despite Ed Cox’s credentials this is a very heavy lift for him and his colleagues. Cox is smart and hungry, but I just don’t see where he gets the candidates he needs to make his bones.
Originally Published in the Legislative Gazette, 3/8/10