By NICK REISMAN
Gannett Albany Bureau
ALBANY - Carl Paladino is in the governor's race for the long haul.
In an interview with Gannett's Albany Bureau Tuesday, the upstart Republican candidate and Buffalo developer said he won't leave the race if he loses the Sept. 14 GOP primary - putting an end to speculation that he would abandon his run if defeated by rival Rick Lazio.
Citing Lazio's commitment to the Conservative Party line through November, Paladino said it was only fair for him to stay on an independent party line he created, known as the Taxpayers party.
"Rick Lazio has promised to stay in on the Conservative Party line so we're staying in," Paladino said. "But we have no thought of losing this primary."
His campaign manager, Michael Caputo, added in an e-mail that, "Once Carl found out that Lazio had signed a pledge to (Conservative Party Chairman) Mike Long to run on the Conservative Party line regardless of the GOP Primary, it became a fait accompli."
Paladino's campaign had hedged in recent weeks over whether or not he would stay in the race in the event that Lazio, a former Suffolk County congressman and the state party's designated candidate, wins the primary. As an alternative to the Conservative Party, whose leadership has endorsed Lazio, Paladino created the Taxpayers line, which draws support from some tea-party groups.
Nearly a dozen candidates seeking state or federal offices have petitioned to be on the Taxpayers line in November, records from the state Board of Elections show. Paladino has his own slate of candidates for statewide office, and they are running on the line.
Additionally, Republican U.S. Senate candidates Gary Berntsen and David Malpass are running on the line, along with multiple candidates running for the state Legislature and U.S. House seats. Malpass, who is seeking to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, said last month he would drop out of the race if he loses the GOP primary.
Candidates in New York can run on multiple party lines.
Paladino was able to petition is way onto the Republican primary ballot and create the third party through a separate petition drive.
Paladino created the independent line in order to end the prominence of the Conservative Party, whose backing is considered essential for any statewide Republican candidate. The Conservative Party's automatic spot on the ballot could be in jeopardy if its gubernatorial nominee fails to receive 50,000 votes.
Failing that, the party must petition its way back on-a potentially expensive and drawn-out process. Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long said he was confident that Lazio would win the GOP primary.
He added that the Conservative Party is established while the Taxpayers line was created out of convenience. "The Conservative Party is a bona fide party," Long said. "He's trying to use the tea party banner and he doesn't even have all of the support from all of the tea-party groups out there."
No Republican has been able to win a statewide election since 1974 without the party's blessing. But the Conservative Party line is no sure thing for Lazio, who recently reported about $502,000 in his campaign account with two weeks before the primary. He faces a primary challenge from Ralph Lorgio, a Conservative Party activist from Erie County.
Even with two party lines, whoever receives the Republican nomination faces a tough challenge in November. Democratic candidate Andrew Cuomo enjoys wide leads over both Paladino and Lazio, according to statewide voter polls.
With either Lazio or Paladino staying in the race as a potential spoiler, a campaign that was difficult for either man to win may turn impossible, said Marist pollster Lee Miringoff. "If you're the Republicans, you want Andrew Cuomo to change his mind being governor or have one guy opposing him," he said. "Anything less than that is moving the meter from the direction of slim to none."
Gannett ContentOne - Albany, NY