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Lazio’s Exit May Boost Paladino in New York Governor’s Contest

Rick Lazio’s exit from the New York governor’s race as the candidate of the Conservative Party may boost Republican Carl Paladino, who trails in the polls against Democrat Andrew Cuomo.

Lazio, 52, a former four-term congressman from Long Island who lost the Republican primary to Paladino, had remained the Conservative Party’s candidate until yesterday. Lazio said that staying on the ticket would have siphoned votes from Paladino and made a Cuomo win more likely.

Most voters who cast their primary ballots for Lazio will throw their support behind Paladino, said Lee Miringoff, director of the Poughkeepsie, New York-based Marist Institute for Public Opinion.

“Generally, the expectation is that Conservative Party voters would be more likely to vote for a Republican than a Democrat,” Miringoff said. Among voters crossing party lines, however, “Cuomo is getting more Republicans than Paladino is getting Democrats,” he said.

Voters will choose on Nov. 2 between Paladino, 64, a Buffalo real-estate developer and favorite of the Tea Party, and Cuomo, 52, New York’s attorney general and son of former Governor Mario Cuomo.

In Democrat-dominated New York, with a “fairly significant cohort” of moderate Republicans and independents, Republican candidates must be able to speak to the center to win, said Ken Sherrill, a political-science professor at Hunter College in Manhattan. Cuomo might lose by failing to generate enough enthusiasm in the Democratic base, he said in an interview.

Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in New York, 5.79 million to 2.91 million, according to the Board of Elections.

Chance to Appeal

Paladino will “only succeed if he can appeal to voters who he’s yet to appeal to,” Sherrill said.

Four polls last week showed Cuomo as the frontrunner. Three registered leads of at least 16 percentage points, including a 19-percentage point lead among likely voters polled by Marist College. Lazio had the backing of 9 percent, Marist said.

A Sept. 22 Quinnipiac University poll that excluded Lazio showed Cuomo ahead of Paladino by 6 points. That poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

Thirty percent of likely voters behind Lazio said they were “unwavering” in their support, while 28 percent said they were “somewhat” behind him, Marist’s poll found. Forty percent said they may change their decision before Election Day and choose another candidate, Marist said.

‘Champion of the Taxpayers’

The Conservative Party will probably vote to nominate Paladino tomorrow, Chairman Michael Long said. Long said he intends to campaign for Paladino, and the party will nominate Lazio for a judgeship.

The 48-year-old Conservative Party calls itself “the champion of the taxpayers” and advocates curtailing excessive spending, a reduction in personal and corporate income taxes, and Medicaid and pension reform.

The previous Republican governor, George Pataki, won office in 1994 thanks to the Conservative Party’s backing. Its 328,605 votes, when added to 2.16 million Republican votes, allowed him to beat Mario Cuomo.

Bruce Gyory, a political adviser at Corning Place Consulting in Albany, said in an interview that Lazio’s withdrawal is good news for Paladino. “It will help Paladino consolidate” his supporters, he said.

Paladino won an upset in the Sept. 14 primary, beating Lazio, the candidate selected by Republican Party leaders. He has promised to clean up Albany with “a baseball bat” and to cut taxes 10 percent and spending 20 percent in his first year as governor.

Cuomo has said he is seeking a coalition with lawmakers and unions to support his plan to freeze taxes and government wages, and to limit growth of state spending to the rate of inflation.

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