Republicans Seek Support From Billionaire Golisano

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The New York Sun

With billionaire Thomas Golisano poised to pump money into legislative races and potentially threaten the balance of power in the state Senate, Republicans yesterday made one last attempt to persuade the Rochester businessman not to support Democrats.

In an 11th-hour appeal, Senate Republicans presented Mr. Golisano with a lengthy letter asserting that, unlike Democrats, they share a common ground on taxes, spending, and other fiscal policies.

Republicans sent the letter days before Mr. Golisano, a three-time gubernatorial candidate on the Independence Party line and owner of the Buffalo Sabres, is expected to begin endorsing candidates and pouring money into political advertising.

Last month, he announced he was putting $5 million into a committee that would support politicians from either party who prove to him that they are sympathetic to his libertarian brand of politics.

Much to the alarm of Republicans, who hold a 31- to 30-seat lead in the Senate, he indicated that he was considering throwing money behind several Democratic Senate candidates in Western New York.

“The differences in priorities and philosophies between Republicans and Democrats in the State Legislature are enormous,” the Republican majority leader of the Senate, Dean Skelos, wrote to Mr. Golisano in an open letter.

“We in the Senate Republican Majority have consistently championed an extensive agenda that gives relief to our hard-working, overburdened taxpayers; revitalizes the economy; and changes the way Albany does business,” Mr. Skelos said.

The attempt at outreach appears to have fallen on deaf ears.

“It’s typical Albany two-step. I know Mr. Golisano’s feeling is that no one has a lot to brag about from any party or any house as far as getting things done,” a political adviser to Mr. Golisano, Steve Pigeon, said.

Mr. Pigeon, a former Democratic Erie County leader, said Mr. Golisano might solicit a similar letter from the Democratic speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, whom Mr. Golisano is also considering targeting.

“Tom might be asking Shelly what his house has done,” Mr. Pigeon said.

In his letter, Mr. Skelos pointed to several bills that were passed by the Senate but ignored by the Assembly, including one that would impose a cap on budget spending.

Mr. Skelos said that Senate Republicans, who have resisted calls by Mr. Golisano and others for the Legislature to turn over the power of redistricting to an independent body, had convened hearings to gather public input on the issue.

A spokesman for the Mr. Skelos, John McArdle, said the purpose of the letter was to “educate and inform” and to “remind Tom Golisano where we’ve been.” He said Mr. Skelos tried calling the businessman directly before writing to him.

“The call was never returned,” Mr. McArdle said.


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