Rick Lazio

Via Email, Lazio Fundraises For Stefanik

Former Rep. Rick Lazio of Long Island has sent out a fundraising appeal for Republican congressional hopeful Elise Stefanik.

In the email, Lazio writes that “Elise can win this race” which features Democratic opponent Aaron Woolf and Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello.

The 21st congressional district, which encompasses the state’s North Country, is being vacated by Democratic Rep. Bill Owens, who is retiring at the end of the year.

“Her opponent is a documentary film maker, and millionaire, who is self funding his smear campaign against Elise,” Lazio says of Woolf. “We cannot let his attacks go unanswered!”

Both candidates have criticized each other for their ties (or lack thereof, actually) to the area.

Lazio’s email, though, doesn’t shy away from Stefanik’s Beltway credentials.

“Elise, on the other hand, is a Harvard graduate, smart and articulate,” he wrote. “In the recent past, she held a White House staff position and led the debate preparation for Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan. As a member of Congress, Elise will certainly and immediately be a national spokesperson for the party as Republicans close the gap with women and young voters. As a New Yorker, I’m excited about the prospect of Elise helping to shape the national debate.”

Lazio unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 2000 against Hillary Clinton, and he lost the Republican nomination for governor in 2010 to Carl Paladino.

Wendy Long Hires Convention Tactician, Aims To Announce Senate Run This Week

A source close to attorney Wendy Long confirmed City&State’s report that she is indeed aiming to announce a challenge to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand this week, making her the second Republican aiming to oust New York’s Democratic junior senator from her perch this fall.

Long, no relation to state Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long, first surfaced as a potential US Senate candidate at the Conservative Party’s annual political action conference in Colonie last month.

Wendy Long has never held political office. She’s a Manhattan attorney who serves as counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network and led the right’s opposition to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor back in 2009 when the Bronx native was tapped by President Obama to be the first Latina to sit on the nation’s highest court.

The Conservatives are apparently very interested in Wendy Long. The party’s executive committee interviewed three potential GOP challengers to Gillibrand during CPAC: Wendy Long, Marc Cenedella, who has since dropped out of the running, and Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos. The chairman told me he came away believing she was “more decisive on the issues” and “more clear-cut” than her male counterparts.

The idea of running a woman against another woman is also appealing to a number of party leaders, Mike Long admitted, as it helps dilute Gillibrand’s likely argument that defeating her would further reduce the already low number of women in Congress.

City&State’s Andrew Hawkins reported Wendy Long has reportedly hired a campaign manager: Dick Wadhams, a veteran Colorado GOP operative who ran Senate campaigns for John Thune and George Allen.

She has also hired GOP operative Lynn Krogh, which is a significant development since there’s more than one Republican vying for the party’s nod to face off against Gillibrand in the November general election.

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Lazio: Once-Married Romney Offers ‘Better Profile’ For GOP Than Thrice-Married Newt

Prominent Mitt Romney-supporting New York Republicans are engaged in some full-throated Newt Gingrich bashing today, labeling the former House speaker as everything from “dangerous” and a “little psycho” (former Staten Island BP Guy Molinari) to a “disaster” (former US Sen. Alfonse D’Amato).

This wave of criticism was actually kicked off by former Rep. Rick Lazio when he spoke at the state Conservative Party’s annual political action conference in Colonie last night.

Lazio, a longtime Romney supporter (he even raised cash for the former Massachusetts governor in 2008 when almost every other NY Republican backed hometown favorite Rudy Giuliani), raised a few eyebrows by going right for the Gingrich jugular – at least where some family-values conservatives are concerned – and bringing up his tumultuous personal life.

“I’m saying I think if you compare Mitt Romney, who married his high-school sweetheart – they have an incredibly stable marriage – he’s a strong family man, I think he’s a great role model. That’s a better profile for Republicans to have,” Lazio said.

“…Nobody is absolutely perfect. The American people are not looking for perfection. They’re looking for good judgement, though, and they’re looking for consistent judgement, and I think that’s what we’re speaking about right now.”

Lazio stressed that Romney’s management experience in the private sector – something that has become a bit of a sore topic in some GOP circles – is another plus, particularly at a time of national economic instability.

The former congressman said he has exchanged several emails with Gingrich. When I asked him about that later, he said the former speaker has sought his input on housing issues – a topic on which Lazio has some expertise, thanks to his position as chair of the House Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity.

Lazio was asked about Gingrich vs. Romney by a CPPAC participant. Ironically, Lazio’s 2010 GOP primary foe, Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino, was seated in the front row throughout the event.

Paladino is a staunch supporter of Gingrch. As we were watching this mini melodrama play out last night, Nick Reisman remarked to me that the current Romney vs. Gingrich battle is almost like a do-over of Lazio vs. Paladino in 2010.

As you’ll recall, Paladino came under fire for his unconventional personal life, too. Lazio, on the other hand, met his first – and only – wife, Patricia, while he was studying at American University School of Law in Washington. (She was the sister of a fellow student and was working at George Washington University Hospital while pursuing a nursing degree). The couple has two grown daughters.

Like Romney, Lazio was the steady candidate the GOP rank-and-file was trying hard to fall in love with, while Paladino, like Gingrich, was the firey outsider often apt to put his foot in his mouth. Of course, these are some extremely broad comparisons, and we’re certainly not saying this is an apples-to-apples situation. It’s interesting, nevertheless.

New Yorkers In Iowa For Newt

In recent weeks, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has slowly built support among New York Republicans, rolling out endorsements from the party’s top state-level official (Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos) along with a wide array of current and former electeds, operatives and county GOP leaders.

If you clicked on that link, you noticed a number of people connected to former Gov. George Pataki – although not the governor himself – have announced their support for Romney, including Pataki’s longtime political operative, Rob Cole, who is Romney’s NYS director and also worked on the former Massachusetts governor’s 2008 White House bid.

Others include: Former Pataki spokesman Mike McKeon and his colleague at Mercury Public Affairs, Tom Doherty (onetime deputy chief of staff and appointments secretary to Pataki); and John Cahill, Pataki’s former chief of staff and current consulting firm partner.

But Romney doesn’t have New York completely sewn up yet. In fact, there are a number of Empire State Republicans – several of whom have Pataki ties – in Iowa right now working for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the days leading up to the Jan. 3 caucuses.

The Troy Record reported yesterday that City of Troy spokesman Jeff Pirro has taken off some time to do some advance work for Gingrich in Iowa.

Pirro was recruited for this short stint by David Levers, with whom he worked in the Pataki administration. Politico’s Maggie Haberman noted Levers’ presence at a Gingrich Iowa event earlier this month.

Haberman recalled that Levers had worked with Craig Schoenfeld, one of two veteran political operatives who walked off Gingrich’s campaign and was later re-hired, to set up Pataki’s Iowa exploratory operation in 2006 when he was mulling a never-realized ’08 White House run.

Levers said Schoenfeld first approached him about working for Gingrich over the summer, but the New York operative (who last ran fellow consultant Jay Townsend’s unsuccessful 2010 challenge to Sen. Chuck Schumer) declined.

But when Gingrich surged in Iowa, his campaign scrambled to beef up its skeleton crew. This time, Levers agreed to sign on to handle the northwest part of the state and manage the state-wide caucus operation.

When Gingrich’s pre-caucus bus tour was coming together, Levers suggested a number of other former Pataki hands to fill in gaps on the political and advance team.

Also on the ground now in Iowa for Newt:

– Lynn Krogh, who is widely credited with running the highly successful floor operation at last year’s state GOP convention for another Pataki ally, ex-Rep. Rick Lazio (then running for governor, and also a Romney supporter dating back to the ’08 days).

She worked in the Pataki administration – right up to the bitter end – and also joined Carl Paladino’s campaign after he defeated Lazio in the GOP gubernatorial primary last fall, going on to lose big to Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the general election.

– Vince Casale, a GOP consultant and son of ex-Assemblyman Tony Casale, who is chief of staff at the NYS Republican Party.

Krogh told me via email that the Pataki team in Iowa for Gingrich likes Romney and are “good friends” with many of his New York operatives. But they also really like Gingrich, and were interested in having the caucus experience. So when asked to sign on, they jumped at the chance.

“It has been pretty fantastic thus far,” said Krogh, who thrives on the sort of grassroots, door-to-door campaigning the caucuses traditionally require.

It appears New Yorkers for Newt are fighting an uphill battle, however, since the candidate’s surge has disintegrated – thanks to a barrage of ads that attacked his conservative credentials. Recent polls show Romney and Ron Paul battling for the top slot, while Rick Santorum is surging and Gingrich is slipping.

It remains to be seen whether Gingrich’s tears yesterday (an occurrence some have said is reminiscent of Hillary Clinton’s New Hampshire performance before her upset Granite State win in 2008) have any impact on his slide.

NYC GOP, Lazio Raising For Zeldin

Sen. Lee Zeldin, a freshman GOP lawmaker from Suffolk County whose return to Albany in 2013 is essential to his party’s quest to maintain the majority next fall, is kicking off his re-election campaign with a Manhattan fundraiser on Jan. 11.

The event, for which tickets run from $250 to $10,000 (for sponsors), is being co-hosted by former Long Island Rep. Rick Lazio, who hasn’t done all that much at the state level since his unsuccessful 2010 gubernatorial bid.

Also on the host committee is Manhattan GOP Dan Isaacs. I wrote recently about Isaacs’ renewed effort to raise campaign cash for candidates outside his own jurisdiction as he lays he groundwork for his next bid at the state party chairmanship (something he says he won’t do until Ed Cox steps down).

Zeldin had a pretty successful year for a freshman. He led the charge for repeal of the controversial MTA payroll tax – a very hot subject on Long Island and main focus of his successful 2010 bid to oust Democrat Brian Foley.

A partial elimination of the tax was part of the tax code deal reached during the recent extraordinary session by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders.

I haven’t heard yet of any Democratic challengers to Zeldin, but Long Island is sure to be a battleground again next fall.

Zeldin Jan 2012 NYC Reception

Intrigue In Queens GOP Battle

Those of you who have been following the on-again, off-again fight for control of the Queens GOP between the Haggertys and Party Chair Phil Ragusa might be asking yourselves: So, what else is new?

Because, really, what has this never-ending battle been but a series of intrigues and legal battles?

Anyway, it looks like both sides are calling in the big guns in advance of tonight’s Wednesday’s dueling chairmanship votes – one that will see Ragusa re-elected to another two-year term, the other resulting in the election of former NYC Council Minority Leader/2005 NYC mayoral contender and 2010 LG candidate Tom Ognibene.

The two factions are each insisting that their election will be the the legitimate one, insisting the other is an invalid sham.

It’s a safe bet the whole mess will end up in court – again – assuming someone doesn’t get a court order to prevent one of the meetings (likely the one being held by the Ognibene crowd) from occurring in the first place.

In the meantime, there’s a lot of furious politicking going on. It pits Ognibene and his allies – the Haggerty brothers, Bart and John (yes, THAT John Haggerty), and NYC Councilman Eric Ulrich – against Ragusa and the Queens GOP establishment.

The Ognibene side is claiming the support of newly-minted Rep. Bob Turner, while accusing state GOP Chairman Ed Cox of getting involved in a local battle on behalf of Ragusa.

A source close to Turner admitted the congressman would likely prefer to see Ognibene in the chairman’s post, but insisted he’s not actively campaigning for the switch and has bigger things to worry about (like setting up a Congressional office), reasoning: “Why would we get involved in this fight until we see the headcount?”

Remember: Ragusa et al initially backed attorney Juan Reyes over Turner in the special election to fill former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s NY-9 seat, worrying that Turner was too close to Ulrich and Ognibene.

More >

NY GOP Approves Primary Change (Updated)

The state GOP is meeting today at the Desmond in Colonie (outside Albany) and is expected to approve changing its winner-take-all primary system back to the proportionality approach in hopes of forcing 2012 candidates to campaign here rather than simply treating New York like a gigantic ATM machine.

UPDATE: The change was unanimously approved, I’m told by an upstate GOP county chair who attended the meeting. Also approved: The election of John Reidman from Rochester to serve as treasurer, replacing Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, who stepped down prior to her loss in the NY-26 special election.

This switch was first discussed back in February.

The New York Democrats already award delegates proportionately by Congressional district. (The DNC does not allow the all-or-nothing approach, although the topic was broached for states that participate later in the process for 2012).

The winner-take-all approach is generally championed by candidates who hail from large, delegate-rich states. The Massachusetts GOP, for example, defied supporters of former Gov. Mitt Romney when it changed its policy of committing all the state’s delegates to the primary winner back in 2007.

The system was expected to award all of New York’s delegates to hometown favorite Rudy Giuliani back in 2008, but the former NYC mayor never made it to Super Tuesday after tanking in Florida. The Empire State ended up going to the eventual GOP nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Giuliani has said he’s thinking about taking another crack at the White House in 2012. He has recently traveled to New Hampshire and pledged to focus this time on the first-in-the-nation primary state, forgoing his (failed) 2008 playbook of overlooking the Granite State in favor of Florida.

If Giuliani does throw his hat into the ring – and, according to William Kristol, he’s thisclose to doing so, although the former mayor’s camp is working to knock down that speculation today – this change means he would likely have to work to secure the support of GOP delegates in his home state (assuming his campaign lasts that long).

Giuliani has long had a complicated relationship with the state GOP.

Support for him from most party leaders was strong back in 2008, even though then-Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno had once called Giuliani “Judas” for crossing party lines to back Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo in his (failed) re-election attempt in 1994.

It was not, however, universal. State GOP Chairman Ed Cox, for example, has long been a McCain man (although the two are on the outs, it seems, since the senator wasn’t invited to the recent Chris Cox-Andrea Catsimatidis wedding, which featured 700 guests). Former Rep. Rick Lazio raised money for Romney.

NYS GOP Operative Gets New Gig

Matt Walter, a longtime NYS GOP operative who got his start working for the Senate Republicans, has a new job: Political director of the Republican State Leadership Committee.

Politico reported Walter’s hiring in the “Morning Score” today, calling him a “veteran of one of 2010’s tougher state legislative campaigns.”

“Walter was a consultant to the RSLC’s effort to take back the New York state Senate last November, which very narrowly succeeded,” allen continued. “He’s a former executive director of the New York Republican Party and Rick Lazio campaign manager, and the RSLC says he’ll ‘play a key role in directing all RSLC political expenditures, expected to exceed $21 million for the cycle.’

“The RSLC – along with its Democratic counterpart, the DLCC – has already run ads in Wisconsin ahead of the state Senate recall campaigns this summer. RSLC president Chris Jankowski: ‘Matt is an experienced political professional who is ready to continue the RSLC’s groundbreaking success and take the point for the Committee’s efforts electing Republicans to state office across the country.'”

NYS GOP watchers will recall that Walter was brought in to run the Lazio campaign following a staff shake-up that ousted Kevin Fullington. The change didn’t save Lazio from getting trounced in the GOP primary by Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino, who went on to lose big to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the November general election.

Walter got his start in former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno’s press shop. He then went to work at the state GOP when Bruno’s ally, Nassau County GOP Chairman Joe Mondello, took over.

Walter eventually rose to the position of executive director, but was bounced from that post by Tom Basile when Ed Cox beat the GOP establishment candidate, former Niagara County GOP Chairman Henry Wojtaszek, to take control of the state party. Cox kept Walter on, but he was largely sidelined.

The RSLC is headed by former Rep. Tom Reynolds and former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie. The committee dropped about $1 million to help the Senate GOP in its quest to take back the majority last fall.

Lazio Invites You To Ignite With Him

Former GOP Rep. Rick Lazio announced today he’s forming an online publication called “IGNITE With Rick Lazio” — a website he says will focus on economic, political and social news.

In an email announcing the launching of the website, the one-time Senate and gubernatorial candidate said he would be the moderator and “moderator and perhaps at times a provocateur” of the news and commentary site.

The site also promises to provide “civil discussion” on current issues.

“As I promised you last year, I’ll continue to be a voice for progress by speaking out on issues that effect our daily lives and the future of our nation. I plan to create a dialogue with civic leaders, business professionals, ordinary citizens and political leaders who want to come together to express their views and ideas for the common good. Certainly, I can’t do it without your help.

From what I can tell so far, the site’s initial offering is like a Lazio fanzine, with a link to a Politico story quoting Lazio, two lengthy articles written by Lazio and an analysis of Medicaid spending. It also includes a link promoting Lazio’s upcoming appearance on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher.

Lazio last year was defeated for the Republican nomination for governor by tea party insurgent Carl Paladino. Lazio later dropped the Conservative Party bid for governor as well.

Club For Growth’s Anti-Trump Ties

Another day, another hit on The Donald by the Club for Growth.

For the record, that’s two hits in two days: The first over the real estate developer’s so-called “liberal” record and bygone support of universal health care and taxing the rich, and the second for his use of eminent domain. (BTW, that was first noted – or rather, the first time I saw it noted – here).

We already noted the Club for Growth’s new spokesman is Barney Keller, who was the voice of Rick Lazio’s failed 2010 gubernatorial campaign (Lazio, unlike most NY Republicans, was a Mitt Romney supporter in 2008). Prior to joining Lazio’s campaign, Keller was the spokesman for the Massachusetts GOP. (Romney, of course, is the former governor of the Bay State).

A reader reminded me yesterday that the Club for Growth has ties to yet another of Trump’s potential 2012 GOP rivals: Tim Pawlenty.

The former Minnesota governor recently announced he had hired Jon Lerner as the pollster for his expected presidential campaign.

The Fix’s Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake described Lerner as “one of the lowest-profile consultants in Washington” who has “long been involved with the Club for Growth’s political activities.”