Dan Janison Melville. N.Y. Tuesday January 26, 2010. Daniel Janison,

Dan Janison has been a columnist at Newsday since 2007.

As the public clashes intensify between backers of Republican Rick Lazio and those who support his new rival for governor, Democratic defector Steve Levy, some of the backroom talk focuses on patronage and ballot placement.

A backer of Levy's drive for the Republican nomination sought subtly to dispel whispered suspicions from Lazio backers that if the Suffolk County executive became governor, he'd ignore or ditch the organization. "You always go to those who helped you get elected . . . in part, when positions need to be filled," the GOP source said with assurance.

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After Republican George Pataki became the state's first Conservative-backed governor in 1994, the third party, then as now under state chairman Michael Long, got to see some of its activists in prominent state posts. Long said Saturday after his executive committee endorsed Lazio, "Rick has been, I think, a friend of the party, a real Republican." Pataki also supports Lazio.

Once the Republicans and Conservatives make their nominations, the matter of ballot placement comes up. In New York's unusual world of cross-endorsement, ballot status is determined by the last gubernatorial election. Four years ago, the Independence Party earned "Row C" placement by landing just ahead of the Conservatives - drawing 190,661 for Eliot Spitzer on its line while John Faso (now backing Levy) got 168,654 on the "C" line. The Independence Party is not expected to make its preference known until after other parties have acted.

In 2006 came every third-party leader's ballot nightmare: Andrew Cuomo dropped out of the Democratic primary for governor, leaving the Liberal line, which endorsed him, to lose its automatic ballot status due to insufficient votes.

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LEVY ON TOUR: While in Battery Park on Friday, Levy read from the same announcement speech he'd given near the state Capitol - and even repeated the words "here in Albany." . . . Somebody on a bench played Italian music from a boom box, which dissipated as the announcement got under way. "Look at this amazing backdrop," Levy said of New York Harbor. "We had a little Italian flavor with the music - would make my mother Marie Cavalcante very happy - but they toned it down." . . . He gave gathered news crews his revisionist account of a past controversial statement on the Marcelo Lucero case. . . . Levy and Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice will undoubtedly address soon how they'll juggle current elected duties with state campaigns.