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Rudy Or Not, Hillary Awaits
Political Junkie
Send your questions about campaigns and elections.

By Ken Rudin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, May 19, 2000

Question: If Mayor Rudy Giuliani drops out of the New York Senate race, will Congressman Peter King have a chance of getting the GOP nod? Can he beat Hillary Clinton? – Bill Snyder, Farmingdale, N.Y.
This matchup may not be in the cards. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Editor's Note: Since this column was first published, Mayor Giuliani has dropped out of the race. Reps. Rick Lazio and Peter King have announced their candidacies.

Answer: The guess here is that if Gov. George Pataki refuses all party entreaties to get him to run – and there have been many – then the GOP will turn to King's fellow Long Island Republican congressman, Rick Lazio. And Lazio, who badly wants the nomination, will get it.

King's name has been on GOP lists from the moment Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D) announced his retirement. However, it's tough politically to oppose abortion if you're running statewide in New York. Giuliani clearly favors abortion rights; Lazio, while also pro-choice, supports some restrictions, including "partial-birth abortion." King's relationship with party leaders is another problem. He had a falling out with some of them earlier this year when he supported John McCain for the presidential nomination over George W. Bush. They might not be willing to reward King for his transgression.

While many GOP leaders publicly said they hoped Giuliani would stay in the race, they also recognize that a Lazio nomination would bring some positives. For one thing, Lazio would almost assuredly win the Conservative Party nomination, while Giuliani would have serious difficulties in obtaining it. And unlike Giuliani, whose candidacy would ensure a large turnout of angry African-American and Latino voters on behalf of Hillary Clinton, Lazio would provoke no such backlash. He also has been raising money for months, and has more than $3 million in the bank (not that amassing a huge war chest will be a problem for anyone running against the first lady). While Lazio has had his own difficult moments with GOP leaders – Pataki and former Sen. Al D'Amato had to publicly dissuade him from challenging Giuliani for the nomination – they would certainly welcome him as their new knight in shining armor. Republicans will name their nominee at their convention May 30 in Buffalo.

What's so remarkable about all this – and admittedly it's difficult to point to one remarkable event in such an unbelievable story – is that polls showed a very close matchup between Clinton and Giuliani. Given the mayor's public-relations disaster in announcing details of his private life, some say this indicates the first lady may not be an especially strong candidate.

But as Republicans saw increasingly that Giuliani was likely to end his candidacy, they have been increasingly pressuring Pataki to run. Many tout the governor as the party's strongest candidate, saying he doesn't have Giuliani's personality flaws or Lazio's or King's legislative records; Andrew Cuomo, the HUD Secretary and son of the former New York governor, has been saying that Lazio willingly followed Newt Gingrich's "marching orders." Pataki insists he does not want to be senator and says he is looking at running for a third gubernatorial term in 2002. Just a guess, but maybe some hope that Bush will tap him as a running mate holds Pataki back. Committing to a Senate race would rule that out.

See also:
Hillary Clinton's Foreign Trip Ups (Nov. 19, 1999)
The GOP (Reluctantly) United to Stop Hillary (Aug. 13, 1999)
A Warm New York Welcome (June 11, 1999)
The Empire State Strikes Back (May 28, 1999)
Capitol Hillary: Is New York Ready for Sen. Clinton? (Feb. 5, 1999)
Two Georges: Is That the Ticket? (July 16, 1998)

Question: Long before the latest revelations about Giuliani's health and private life, some pundits had suggested that the mayor was wary of running for the Senate because if he won, he'd have to resign the mayoralty. Then it would automatically go to City Public Advocate Mark Green (D). Would it not be possible for him to delay taking his Senate seat until his term-limited stint as mayor expired, thereby keep Green from succeeding to the post? Huey Long did something like this in Louisiana, did he not? – Brad Davis, Cambridge, Mass.

Answer: Giuliani does indeed despise Green, who as the city's number-two officeholder would automatically become mayor upon Rudy's departure. But he wouldn't run for Senate with the idea of holding off from resigning as mayor for a year to spite Green, even if it were politically feasible. If he really hated Green that much, Giuliani would sit out the Senate race and explore a gubernatorial bid in 2002 (which some feel is his true goal).

While many of Giuliani's supporters would not like the comparison to the autocratic rule of Huey Long, you are correct in describing what Long did. In 1930, while governor, Long defeated Sen. Joseph Ransdell in the Democratic Senate primary and won the seat uncontested in the fall. But he refused to give up the governorship because it would have elevated a Long enemy to the post. So the "Kingfish" held off being sworn into the Senate for 14 months – until one of his lieutenants, O.K. Allen, was elected governor.

Question: Has the office of mayor of New York City always been a political cul de sac? A former New Yorker myself, I remember failed campaigns for higher office by Robert Wagner, John Lindsay, Ed Koch and now, perhaps, Rudy Giuliani. Why have so many failed? – Daniel Metraux, Staunton, Va.
Koch was the last NYC mayor to lose in a bid for statewide office. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Answer: Historically there has been a tremendous antipathy of non-NYC voters to vote for anyone so closely associated with the Big Apple. But that would be too simple in explaining the defeats of the mayors you cite.

Wagner, the Democratic nominee for an open Senate seat in 1956, lost to Jacob Javits, the Republican state attorney general. Javits won the race because, as a Jew and a former congressman from Manhattan, he cut into the usual Democratic vote in the city. He also won big upstate, benefitting from the strong run of President Eisenhower.

Lindsay was a former Republican-turned Independent-turned Democratic mayor when he sought the Dem Senate nomination in 1980. He left City Hall in 1973 quite unpopular, and when NYC's fiscal situation grew worse in the late 1970s, his policies were often blamed. Short on funds, he lost the Democratic primary to Elizabeth Holtzman.

For a Manhattanite, Koch had achieved unusual popularity upstate, and went into the 1982 Democratic gubernatorial primary as the clear favorite. But in a Playboy interview, Koch labeled suburbia as "sterile" and described rural areas as "a joke." He was defeated in the primary by Lt. Gov. Mario Cuomo, losing upstate by a 2-1 margin and only narrowly carrying the city.

One long-standing roadblock to Hillary Clinton's candidacy was that she had no roots in New York. But many upstate voters view the city-dwelling Giuliani as much as a carpetbagger as the first lady; to many of them, there is not much of a difference between Manhattan and Little Rock. Furthermore, much of that Clinton criticism has dissipated as she has spent an extraordinary amount of time campaigning in virtually every county outside of New York City and its suburbs.

For a look at the travails of some big-city mayors in their efforts to move to higher office, see the Feb. 24, 1999 column.

Question: Now that Hillary Clinton has been able to capture the Democratic Senate nomination at the state convention in Albany, will there be a Democratic primary in September? I seem to remember that other New York candidates captured a party nomination in a convention but still ended up losing the primary. – D.C. Finegold Sachs, Alexandria, Va.
Getting the Dem convention backing didn't lead to a victory in the '74 primary. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Answer: It is unlikely that another Democrat will have enough support to force a Sept. 12 primary contest. Two political unknowns, retired police lieutenant Peter Ruane and Manhattan surgeon Mark McMahon, vied for support at the state convention but got shut out. For them to make it to a primary ballot they would have to get signatures of 15,000 Democrats between June 6 and July 13. It's not going to happen. Clinton is the overwhelming and unquestionable choice of her party.

But your memory is correct. There have been times when a candidate has come away from a New York Democratic state convention with an endorsement, only to be defeated in the primary. The 1974 Democratic convention stands out in particular: the endorsees for both governor (Howard Samuels) and senator (Lee Alexander) lost their primaries that year (to Hugh Carey and Ramsey Clark, respectively).

Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: junkie@washingtonpost.com

Ken Rudin, political editor at National Public Radio, is also the creator of washingtonpost.com's ScuttleButton contest.

© Copyright 2000 Ken Rudin

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