Paladino snags Conservative Party nomination for guv

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COLONIE - Carl Paladino Wednesday picked up the Conservative Party nomination for governor, though some party stalwarts wanted to stick with Rick Lazio, who dropped out earlier this week.

Paladino received about 300 votes out of 348 at a party meeting in this Albany suburb. There were 16 abstentions and one "no" vote.

The Conservatives' embrace of Paladino, a Buffalo businessman, comes in the wake of his stunning victory over Lazio in the Republican gubernatorial primary on Sept. 14. Lazio, a former congressman from Brightwaters, easily won the Conservative primary against a Paladino ally, but was seen as weak going into the Nov. 2 general election.

After a meeting last Sunday with Lazio, Paladino and Conservative leaders, it was decided Lazio would make way for Paladino to try to ensure that the party receives the 50,000 votes necessary to retain its ballot line. Wednesday, Paladino and Conservative leaders downplayed their past criticisms of each other.

"Everything is forgotten," Paladino told reporters after securing the party's nod. "We're all going together to the big dance."

Conservative chairman Michael Long agreed, saying, "That chapter of our life is closed. We shook hands."

Just last week Long had described Paladino as "dangerous" and "more a caricature than a candidate."

Still, Paladino's opposition to abortion and his vow to cut state taxes and spending received a standing ovation Wednesday from the crowd of about 60 people. Several recalled that no Republican has won statewide office without Conservative backing since 1974.

Suffolk Conservative chief Edward Walsh said, "Carl Paladino is going to grab hold of this party and move it forward. Carl Paladino is not going to wage a beauty contest [against Democratic nominee Andrew Cuomo]. This isn't going to be pretty."

Walsh, referring to criticism of Paladino's campaign tactics, said New York's problems warranted being "rough and crass" if jobs are to be created and state government overhauled.

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The Conservative nomination gives Paladino the same number of ballot lines as Cuomo. It also conceivably tightens the race. A poll last week by Quinnipiac University showed Cuomo leading Paladino by only 6 percentage points among likely voters.

Walsh seconded Paladino's nomination for governor. However, another party leader, Tom Cook of upstate Monroe County, has resigned as a member of the party's governing board to protest the dumping of Lazio.

Paladino also reiterated his opposition to abortion and acknowledged he would lobby to change state law. "Will I advocate for change? Yes, I will because it's a personal feeling. But my personal views won't take precedence over enforcing the [current] laws."

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