Political Action: Giuliani must become guv or senator to reach presidency

By William Lewis

The prospect of former Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani running for the U.S. Senate next year against present incumbent U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has emerged as a real possibility.

Considering that a recent Marist Poll showed Giuliani leading Gillibrand by 14 points before the race even begins, it certainly increases the chances he will enter the race. If Giuliani wins the Senate seat, it will give him foreign policy experience he lacked when he ran in the primaries for president in 2008.

If he has expectations of running for president again, it is almost imperative he obtain a statewide elective office of either governor or U.S. senator. Most of our elected presidents since 1900 have held one of these two offices before achieving the presidency.

Giuliani, however, has significant hurdles to overcome before he can achieve a Senate seat. There is the question of historical precedent from the standpoint that no New York City mayor has gone on to higher office such as governor or U.S. senator since the 1850s. Giuliani will be going against a precedent that has existed for over 150 years.

In addition, there is the matter of third party endorsements. When Giuliani ran for mayor and won in 1993 and 1997, he ran as a Republican with the endorsement of the state Liberal Party. He also ran on an independent line. Since then, the Liberal Party has disappeared from existence.

For Giuliani to maintain political momentum, it is essential he gain the endorsements of the Conservative and Independence parties. Presently, for a Republican to be elected to any New York office at the local, county or state level, in most cases third party endorsement is needed. Here in Queens during the most recent election, all three GOP-winning City Council candidates had Conservative and Independence endorsements.

Since 1989, when Giuliani first ran for mayor, and in the two elections in 1993 and 1997, he did not have a good working relationship with the Conservative Party. In recent years, however, the former mayor is generally perceived as having been more conservative than he was in the earlier years of his career and his popularity in the Conservative Party seems to have grown accordingly.

State Independence Party executive member and Queens representative Mike Niebauer indicated that Giuliani would be acceptable as a candidate of the Independence Party for statewide office.

Regarding the mayoral race this year, Conservative Party candidate Stephen Christopher received 2 percent of the vote. He did this without any extensive campaigning or fund-raising. He had no formal campaign organization.

Queens Conservative Party Chairman Tom Long indicated that had the party been able to put more resources into Christopher’s campaign, Christopher might have reached 4 percent or 5 percent of the total final vote for mayor, thereby possibly causing Mayor Michael Bloomberg to lose his bid for a third term, since Bloomberg only won by about 5 percent.

Long has big hopes for next year in the state Assembly races after his party’s strong showing in Council races this year. Christopher seems to be interested in running for public office again, possibly for mayor in four years. Next time, he would begin his campaign much earlier.

The Queens Independence Party, led by County Chair Molly Honigsfeld, worked almost entirely on Bloomberg’s campaign for re-election. She indicated that the Democrats were successful in using the term limits issue against Bloomberg.

Nevertheless, she believes the Independence Party did well in this past election by getting 13 percent of the mayor’s vote and increased the party’s votes significantly from the 2005 citywide election.

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