ALBANY -- Republicans fought back Wednesday against Carl Paladino's threat to topple the party leadership if it doesn't run an "acceptable" conservative gubernatorial candidate next year.
Paladino, the fiery Buffalo businessman who was the GOP candidate in 2010, said in an email blast he would run again in 2014 on a minor-party line if Republicans don't nominate a candidate "acceptable to the rank and file" of the party. Even though 2010 was a strong year for conservatives elsewhere, Paladino was routed by Democrat Andrew M. Cuomo, 63 percent to 33 percent.
Upset about new gun regulations and other issues, Paladino said he wants to shake up the GOP by forcing the resignation of the top Republicans in the legislature: Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua). Paladino called them Republican "phonies" in the email missive, saying they hadn't sufficiently resisted Cuomo's agenda.
Aides to Skelos and Kolb declined to comment. But one top Long Island Republican fired back, saying the party doesn't need the "polarization" of politics he said Paladino advocates.
"Carl Paladino isn't the face or voice of the Republican Party in New York or hopefully anywhere," State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) said.
"What this country needs, what this state needs, is principled elected officials who get the job done," Martins said. "People are sick and tired of the polarization they see in Washington. To try to bring that to New York would be a disservice to all voters and Republican voters."
Paladino, a tea party-style candidate, was the surprise GOP standard-bearer in 2010 after beating former Long Island congressman Rick Lazio in a primary. His campaign -- marked by his "mad as hell" rhetoric, controversial anti-gay remarks and personal accusations against Cuomo -- failed to generate widespread support.
In fact, Republican consultant William F.B. O'Reilly and others believe Paladino's candidacy cost the party "down ballot" races that year. In a column published in Newsday Wednesday, O'Reilly said Paladino's threat to run again as a Conservative Party candidate was about "revenge."
"It's his play to deny both parties a unified ticket next year in an effort to get what he wants -- revenge against Republican leaders in Albany for their various and protean transgressions against him," O'Reilly wrote. "The most successful and electable conservatives -- the Ronald Reagans, Chris Christies and Scott Walkers -- are the competent ones, not the loud, angry ones." Reached later Wednesday, O'Reilly declined to comment further.
Two other Republicans have said publicly they are considering runs against Cuomo in 2014: Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and state Assemb. Steve McLaughlin (R-Schaghticoke).
Paladino said Skelos and Kolb "require punishment for their unforgivable misdeeds of neglecting the values of those who put them in office." Paladino, who has been especially critical of Skelos for allowing a vote on Cuomo's gun-control proposals, has led pro-gun rallies in the state.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified William F.B. O'Reilly.