Pataki Endorsement of Weld Called ‘Imminent’

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The New York Sun

Governor Pataki will endorse William Weld for governor before New York State Republicans hold their convention next week, according to GOP sources. The primary campaign has recently taken a nasty turn on both sides, and Mr. Weld’s spokeswoman yesterday labeled his opponent, John Faso, “bizarre.”

“It’s imminent,” a Republican source said while describing Mr. Pataki’s plan to endorse Mr. Weld. The source said the governor considers Mr. Weld a stronger candidate with better fund-raising potential than the former assemblyman, Mr. Faso, who has been eyeing statewide office for more than a decade.

With the convention approaching, the Republican primary for governor has taken on new urgency and both campaigns have become increasingly hostile in their remarks. When told that Mr. Pataki would support his opponent, Mr. Faso yesterday accused the governor of coordinating recent attacks against his candidacy.

“Weld and the governor’s forces are orchestrating this misguided and distorted attack on my record, and it’s laughable,” Mr. Faso said.

That drew a swift response from Mr. Weld’s campaign. “You cannot orchestrate a 20-year record,” a spokeswoman, Andrea Tantaros, said. “It seems like when it counts on the most sensitive and serious matters, John Faso marches to the beat of a very bizarre drum.”

Mr. Pataki’s support is a much-needed boost for Mr. Weld, a former Massachusetts governor whose campaign has been off to a slower start than his supporters expected when he entered the race last summer. At the time, Mr. Pataki said Mr. Weld would make an “outstanding candidate.” But since then Mr. Pataki has focused more on his own presidential ambitions than New York politics.

A spokesman for the governor was not immediately available to comment yesterday.

While Mr. Weld enjoys crucial support from the chairman of the state Republican Party, Mr. Faso is expected to surpass the 25% threshold required for a spot on the ballot when convention delegates vote May 31. Mr. Faso has vowed to stay in the race as the Conservative Party nominee even if Mr. Weld wins the Republican primary.

There is talk among party members about bypassing the traditional balloting process and using a voice vote that wouldn’t reveal how each delegate voted, but state party leaders say bylaws forbid voice votes in contested races.

Both Republicans are underdogs against the Democratic front-runner, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who has maintained a 50 percentage-point lead over them in recent polls. Mr. Spitzer will likely face a Democratic primary challenge from the Nassau County executive, Thomas Suozzi.

Mr. Pataki’s endorsement of Mr. Weld is a surprise mainly in the sense that it hasn’t happened yet. He and Mr. Weld are longtime friends and share the same fund-raiser, Catherine Blaney.

Mr. Weld is relying heavily on donors outside of New York, tapping a network of supporters that he established while running Massachusetts. Mr. Weld had $2 million in the bank in January, double Mr. Faso’s campaign war chest at that point. The next mandatory campaign finance filing is July 15.

Mr. Pataki’s endorsement could encourage more donors to give to the Weld campaign, which party insiders say has raised significantly more money this year than Mr. Faso’s campaign.

Mr. Faso’s team surely hopes the governor’s influence will mirror his popularity. Mr. Pataki’s approval rating — hovering around 30% — is at its lowest point since he took office in 1995. Voters have expressed widespread dissatisfaction with Albany and the overall direction of the state, and New York’s Republican Party itself is riven by internal disagreements.

Mr. Faso, whose strategy has been to shore up the conservative base of the party, has been creeping ahead of Mr. Weld in polls and has won endorsements from party leaders in Suffolk and Westchester counties, which have among the highest numbers of Republican voters.

Mr. Weld presents himself as a moderate Republican with fairly liberal positions on social issues that appeal to urban and suburban voters. Last week, Mr. Weld singled out Mr. Faso’s opposition to several women-oriented bills in an effort to paint Mr. Faso as outside the mainstream and hostile to women.

Attention on Mr. Faso’s voting record was sparked by a letter to state Republican leaders from the GOP leader of suburban Orange County, Bill DeProspo. The letter accused Mr. Faso of missing many votes and pointed to Mr. Faso’s opposition to certain Assembly bills that could hurt him in a contest against Mr. Spitzer. The bills involved equal pay for men and women doing similar work, a ban on workplace discrimination against women and a requirement that public schools teach students about the Irish potato famine.

Mr. Faso shot back with a letter to Republican county leaders that defends his voting record and suggests the Weld campaign was behind the Orange County letter. But Mr. DeProspo told The New York Sun that he wrote the letter on his own — although he acknowledged that he obtained information through the Republican state committee, which backs Mr. Weld.

Mr. Faso’s rebuttal letter, which was obtained by the Sun, described the attacks on him as reminiscent of the criticism that Governor Cuomo lobbed at Mr. Pataki in the 1994 election.

“These tactics have been tried time and again and always fail,” he wrote. “Mario Cuomo and his minions called Mr. Pataki a captive of right-wing extremists, beholden to the radical right, and they said he was propped up by ultra-conservatives.”

Mr. Faso also wrote that that many of the votes that he missed occurred while his wife was undergoing cancer treatment 15 years ago.


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