Levy gives up gubernatorial hopes, endorses Lazio

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy in his office

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy in his office in Hauppauge, May 18, 2010. (Credit: NEWSDAY/Audrey C. Tiernan)

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Nearly two months after the state GOP convention, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy has formally given up his gubernatorial ambitions and endorsed his erstwhile Republican adversary, Rick Lazio.

As expected, Levy said he will not spend the money needed to collect the more than 15,000 signatures on petitions to run an independent candidacy for governor.

Lazio "will work hard toward accomplishing many of the goals I had set out in my campaign," said Levy, who abandoned his career-long membership in the Democratic Party in March to enter the race for governor.

"My call for a local property tax cap and a state spending cap are now part of the platforms of these candidates," Levy said of those still in the race. "They are also talking about reforming the pension process, giving the governor the ability to impound funds, freezing salaries and benefits and working toward the elimination of burdensome state mandates including the Triborough Amendment, which provides automatic step salary increases."

Levy also said he had several conversations with Lazio. According to Levy, Lazio promised to "aggressively oppose illegal immigration and the heavy cost it places on local government."

In a statement, Lazio said, "I am grateful for Steve Levy's endorsement today. . . . I am pleased to have Steve Levy's support for my agenda of reduced spending, a balanced budget, less taxes and more jobs for the people of New York."

Levy entered the GOP state convention in June with the backing of party chairman Ed Cox, but was endorsed by just 28 percent the delegates to nearly 60 percent for Lazio, and fell short of the 50 percent backing he needed as a new party member to enter a primary.

That loss led to an awkward moment for Cox, when he immediately endorsed the party's choice and said Levy would, too - just as Levy announced he'd consider a third-party bid. Friday, a spokesman said Levy's announcement was "no surprise" to Cox, who had been "certain Mr. Levy would do the right thing."

The move cements Levy's commitment to his new party, one which places a higher value on unity and typically frowns on primaries, notes Democratic consultant Christopher Hahn.

It also doesn't come too soon for the Lazio campaign, which has flagged in fundraising and at the polls. Even Nassau's Republican County Executive Edward Mangano made an appearance with Lazio's Democratic opponent, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, this week, on the same day that Lazio was campaigning elsewhere on Long Island.

Levy also had strong support from tea party activists who were otherwise more likely to favor Lazio's GOP primary rival, Carl Paladino, who has been gaining on Lazio in the polls.

Paladino's campaign was dismissive Friday. "Now Levy can paste a Lazio sticker over his Obama '08 bumper sticker," a spokesman said.

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