Political Action: Pataki could have big showing if he runs for governor in 2010

By William Lewis

At this point as we look at next year’s possible Republican candidates for statewide office, most of the media attention has focused on former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, first as a candidate for governor and now as a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki, however, is also interested in a political comeback after serving three terms, which ended in 2006. He had briefly considered running for president in early 2008, but his low polling numbers at that time discouraged him from actively seeking national office.

In comparing Giuliani’s political career with Pataki’s in terms of running for public office, Giuliani before he ran in the Republican presidential primaries had run for mayor three times. He lost the first race but won the next two campaigns. In the case of Pataki, he has compiled an impressive list of successful political campaigns few major New York political leaders have equaled in recent times.

Beginning with his election as mayor of Peekskill in Westchester County twice by impressive margins, he then went on to serve four terms in the state Assembly. He would then run in a Republican primary for the state Senate and after winning that would go on to be successful in the fall general election. After serving one term in the state Senate, he would be elected to three terms as governor.

This electoral career shows Pataki winning 10 general elections from 1981 to 2002 and also winning two important Republican primaries for state Senate and the governorship. He has never lost a local or statewide race since he first began running for public office. This series of political accomplishments is particularly outstanding when we consider that in all four different offices that he held, Pataki first ran against incumbents.

Pataki defeated the incumbent Democratic mayor of Peekskill when he first ran for public office in 1981. In 1984, he again defeated an incumbent to win a seat in the Assembly. In 1992, he continued challenging incumbents in a primary by defeating another Republican who had been in office 14 years. His biggest victory over incumbents occurred in 1994, when he defeated Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo, who had served three terms in office.

There is now some speculation Pataki may seek to become governor again. If he does, he will probably be running against Democratic state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. If that campaign takes place, it will attract a lot of attention.

In 1994, when Pataki defeated Mario Cuomo, father of Andrew Cuomo, it was a banner year for the Republicans nationally, since they significantly increased their seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. This coming year looks like it could be at least somewhat similar to 1994, with Democratic President Barack Obama continually dropping in the polls.

If it turns out Pataki and Giuliani will be leading the GOP ticket in New York next year, it would be the first time they have run together in the same year. Considering they have name-recognition and established records as effective leaders, this should be an incentive for local Republican candidates all over the state to increase their chances of making a strong showing. It is likely Pataki will obtain the Conservative Party and Independence Party endorsements, thereby running on three lines.

The Republicans are satisfied with the recent 2009 election results with victories for the governorships of New Jersey and Virginia and winning the positions of county executive in Westchester and Nassau counties. In Queens, three Republican victories for the City Council have increased expectations for future successes in 2010.

More from Around New York