State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long was in very good mood last night at the GOP gala dinner following the designation of his preferred gubernatorial candidate, Rick Lazio, at the Republican convention.

As it turned out, Long’s gamble in sticking by Lazio and holding his convention first in hopes of forcing the hand of state GOP Chairman Ed Cox paid off. (Even though Lazio faces a primary challenge for Row D from Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph Lorigo).


But Long insisted that he doesn’t consider the win a personal victory so much as a “victory for the citizens of this state, who will have a clear choice between Andrew Cuomo and Rick Lazio.”

At the dinner, Long and Cox, who have traded barbs in the press (and perhaps behind closed doors, as well) in the weeks leading up to their nominating conventions, had a tete-a-tete in the hallway outside the ballroom, exchanged congratulations and agreed to work together.

“I’m not looking to have a war with Ed Cox,” Long told me this morning. “Ed is the chairman of the party; I’m looking to work with him.”

“…I don’t feel I won,” the chairman continued. “I feel what I did I did with good intentions because I believe very strongly in Rick Lazio….There’s no prupose for us to have a guerilla warfare. There’s no room for it.”

Long said he understands that there were Republicans – including Cox – who supported Democrat-turned-Republican Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, and he continues to disagree with them.

That said, he wants everyone take a couple of days to “take a deep breath” and then “slowly start reuniting for one purpose, and that’s to turn this state around; we can only do that united and standing shoulder to shoulder.”

I asked Long about Carl Paladino’s plan to petition his way into a primary with Lazio, and then onto the general election ballot, and also the Buffalo businessman’s claim that Lazio isn’t sufficiently conservative to woo rock-ribbed members of the party to pull the lever on Row D.

Long responded by noting that Paladino has contributed campaign cash to “liberal Democrats,” adding:

“He has spread his moneuy around on both sides of the aisle; that’s not consistency, and that’s the thing that concerns me..Rick Lazio has supported conservative Republicans his entire life.”