POLITICAL NEWS Analysis
Suffolk Exec May Be Dark Horse In Race For Governor
(AP) The race for New York’s Democratic nomination for governor is already shaping up to be an all-in poker hand between incumbent David Paterson and the more popular and better financed Andrew Cuomo.
It may soon be dealt a wild card in conservative Democrat Steve Levy. The feisty Suffolk County executive who’s considering a run says he would do nothing less than “turn this state upside down and inside out.”
“You really have to have a semirevolution in the way things are conducted in Albany,” Levy told The Associated Press. “This is one year when people are going to be looking for that one person with a proven fiscally conservative background and no one tops me in that area.
“They don’t want on-the-job training, they don’t want promises,” Levy said. “They want a guy who has shown he has the guts to take on any entrenched special interest.”
It’s not the kind of talk that makes Levy popular with many Democratic bosses, whose candidates hold every statewide post and control both houses of the Legislature. As a result, Levy isn’t get much encouragement to run from leaders, despite his 2007 win in which he carried the Democratic, Republican, Conservative, Independence and Working Families party lines.
But it’s not just Democrats who may have to deal with him.
“I would accept the endorsement of any other party,” Levy said. “I would not shun them. I like to think of myself as post-partisan ... the party banner is less important than the underlying principles on which you run.”
It would be a most unconventional way to the governor’s mansion. But convention counts for little these days after Democrats were ousted by Republicans in local elections last fall, a Conservative sidelined a Republican in an upstate congressional race, and a Republican won Democratic icon Edward M. Kennedy’s Senate seat in Massachusetts.
If Levy runs, and he says he will decided by mid-April, he’ll be banking on such disillusioned and angry voters.
His credentials include suing his own county and winning back taxpayers’ money as a maverick county legislator, serving as a state assemblyman; and, as executive, cutting spending, balancing a historic deficit he inherited, and proposing six budgets without a tax increase.
His plans for Albany: Declare a fiscal state of emergency to freeze spending; create a financial control board to mandate hard fiscal deci- sions as was done for Buffalo, Nassau County and New York City in past decades; set a hard spending cap as in Suffolk County; and waive the capital gains tax for venture capitalists willing to invest in New York, especially in hard-hit upstate communities.
“You have to have the courage to say ‘no’ to the things you want so you have the capacity to say `yes’ to the things you need,” he said.
But as good as many say he looks on paper, he can draw cringes when he speaks. He quipped during a 2009 roast in Bay Shore about deporting kitchen workers, a joke he said was supposed to target his own previously controversial comments about Hispanics and which his staff said was twisted by political correctness. This year, he used “Shaniqua” at a Martin Luther King Day speech in referring to a hypothetical person who would benefit from his fight against housing discrimination, rankling some black leaders.
That’s red meat for the political interests that would line up against him.
As a Democrat, he could claim outsider status more cleanly than Paterson, who spent 20 years as a state senator, and Cuomo, a one-term attorney general who has run for governor and was a confidant and campaign manager for years for his father, Gov. Mario Cuomo.
Levy’s $4 million campaign account is also larger than Paterson’s or Republican Rick Lazio’s, although less than a quarter of Cuomo’s.
Running on the Republican line won’t be easy and may be impossible. He’d need to wow a lot Republican county chairman statewide and then bowl over delegates at the state GOP convention.
The problem for him is that, since September, Lazio has already done the former. The ex-congressman from Long Island who has been called the “presumptive nominee” by state Republican Chairman Ed Cox, currently has the support of 28 of 62 county chairmen representing 64 percent of the weighted vote.
“I think the train is running pretty fast down the track,” said state Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long. “The time for him to possibly do it was certainly much earlier than now.”
But Levy doesn’t stick to conventional political calendars any more than conventional politics.
To voters he says: “You deserve not to settle this election and if you’re going to be seeking change, put your vote behind someone who has proven himself to be an agent of change ... I’ve got moxie.”
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