Faso’s Triumph Is a Victory For Conservative Party Chief

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John Faso’s triumph over the Republican leadership’s preferred candidate, William Weld, marks a big victory for the Conservative Party leader, Michael Long, who has struggled in recent years against the GOP’s drift leftward.

While George Pataki’s victory over Governor Cuomo in 1994 required support from the Conservative Party, Mr. Pataki embraced increasingly liberal positions in his two re-election campaigns. The tactic kept Mr. Pataki in office, but meant the Conservatives who put him there didn’t see many of their policy wishes become reality.

No Republican has won statewide office in more than three decades who hasn’t appeared on the Conservative Party line. Mr. Faso, a former Republican leader in the state Assembly, has strong conservative credentials when it comes to his positions on tax cutting, school choice, and abortion.

His success in uniting the Conservative and Republican parties is a being viewed by some as a win for the conservative wing of the GOP, which has been pressing the party to move back to its roots. It also helps cement Mr. Long as something of a kingmaker in state Republican politics.

“It is a tremendous victory for Long because it sends a message to Republicans that they need him to win,” a political consultant, Hank Sheinkopf, said. “It shows that the Conservative Party with Mike Long as leader is more important than ever.”

“Pataki Republicanism is just not going to work for the party in the future,” Mr. Sheinkopf said. “The party is going to move back to the right, back to its roots.”

Mr. Long said yesterday that it’s not “important how we got here,” but what is important is that Mr. Faso’s candidacy is a “victory for the taxpayers.”

A longtime Republican operative, Robert Ryan, called Mr. Long the only true “political boss” left in the state.

“He set the agenda for the Republican convention,” Mr. Ryan said, referring to the Conservative Party leader. “A Republican doesn’t win by being a Democrat light. Rule no. 1 in politics is energize your base and then work on everybody else,” he said.

Mr. Long’s decision to hold his party’s political convention a week before the GOP convention may have pressured the Republicans to follow suit and endorse Mr. Faso.

County leaders from both parties said the victory was due largely to Mr. Faso’s tireless campaigning and his years of party activism. The Bronx County Republican chairman, Joseph Savino, said with Mr. Faso’s win was more due to that work than to his ideological differences with Mr. Weld, who is viewed as more moderate.

In the run-up to the GOP convention, though, Mr. Faso’s supporters went out of their way to tout Mr. Long’s endorsement.

The executive director of the state Republican Party, Ryan Moses, said the party has had success with all sorts of candidates, including Mayor Bloomberg, Mr. Pataki, and Mayor Giuliani. He denied that Mr. Weld’s defeat was a blow to the Republican leadership, which backed him.

Mr. Moses said it was a win for the party because members now have a united front against Mr. Spitzer, the Democratic gubernatorial front-runner.

“The party’s been successful when running people more to the conservative side and people more to the moderate side,” Mr. Moses said.

A political consultant, Gerry O’Brien, said the Conservative’s Party’s true influence will be tied to the performance of its candidates in November. In addition to Mr. Faso, the party is supporting John Spencer to take on Senator Clinton, and Jeannine Pirro for attorney general.

“If John Faso pulls an upset … even if he runs a competitive race against Eliot Spitzer, they’ll say the alliance is important and should continue,” he said.

Related Editorials:
Clean Break, June 7, 2006
Headed South, June 6, 2006
Let Faso Run, May 23, 2006
Pataki’s Last Stand, April 24, 2006
Passing the Buck, April 10, 2006
To the Primary, December 14, 2005

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