Pataki endorses Giuliani in Senate raceGOP Rep. Lazio still planning to join the race
August 6, 1999
Web posted at: 6:31 p.m. EDT (2231 GMT)
NEW YORK (AllPolitics, August 6) -- Republican New York Gov. George Pataki on Friday endorsed New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani -- an occasional rival -- in the Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate.
Appearing alone at a news conference, Pataki said, "In order to win, the Republican Party must be unified behind one strong candidate. I believe Rudy Giuliani has earned the right to be that candidate."
Pataki continued, "He has been an excellent mayor who would be a strong candidate, as well as an effective member of the Senate majority fighting for New York's interests.
"I am confident that, if the mayor declares his candidacy for the United States Senate, he will receive the overwhelming support of Republicans. I am urging him to announce his decision sooner rather than later to give us the best likelihood of victory."
Giuliani issued a statement thanking and praising the governor. "I very much appreciate Gov. George Pataki's strong words of support... I very much look forward to continuing to work with Governor Pataki," Giuliani said in the statement.
The announcement represents a blow to the aspirations of Rep. Rick Lazio (R-New York), who has said he plans to formally announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination. Pataki asked Lazio to hold off until Giuliani formally decides if he is a candidate.
"Rick Lazio is an outstanding congressman who is a rising star in our party. I predict great things for him," said Pataki. "Nevertheless, I have asked Congressman Lazio to defer his announcement and await the mayor's decision because it is critically important to our future that we have a unified party and elect a Republican senator in the year 2000."
But sources close to Lazio's campaign say he will run for the Senate next year, adding "he's in and he's running."
The congressman still plans to announce his candidacy on August 16, a Lazio campaign official says.
"After a short break today, we're back to planning," the official said. "The campaign is full steam ahead."
Political observers in New York have fear that a pitched primary battle between Giuliani and Lazio could drain away money and leave the Republican candidate in a weak position if first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton elects to run in the Democratic primary.
A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, who is in New York on another "listening tour" as she prepares to make up her mind about running, said what the Republicans do won't affect her plans.
Mayor Rudy Giuliani
"What the Republicans do or don't do is really up to them, " said Howard Wolfson, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton's exploratory committee. "Mrs. Clinton is going to continue listening to New Yorkers and focusing on the issues."
Mrs. Clinton, who was in Rochester on Friday, has listening tours planned in New York during each of the next two weeks.
The endorsement of Giuliani by Pataki represents a major shift in relations between the two men. In the past they have been at odds, and in 1994, Giuliani backed Democrat Mario Cuomo's gubernatorial reelection bid over Pataki.
Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-New York), is retiring from the Senate, leaving his seat up for grabs.