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Ex-Nassau Legis. Bruce Blakeman mulls Senate run

Bruce Blakeman, a lawyer who now lives in

Bruce Blakeman, a lawyer who now lives in Manhattan, said he isn't directly soliciting support, but testing the waters. Credit: handout

Bruce Blakeman, the Nassau legislature's one-time presiding officer, flew to Washington, D.C., Friday to huddle with Texas Sen. John Cornyn, head of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee.

The sit-down was one of a dozen Blakeman, 54, has had in the past two months to explore a potential U.S. Senate race against Kirsten Gillibrand. A day earlier he sat down with state and Suffolk Independence Party chairman Frank MacKay, and two weeks ago he met with Michael Long, chairman of the state Conservative Party.

Blakeman, a lawyer who now lives in Manhattan, said he isn't directly soliciting support, but testing the waters. A formal announcement is likely to come in January.

"What you have to demonstrate to political leaders is that you have the vision, the path, the ability to raise money and fire in the belly," said Blakeman hours after the Cornyn meeting. "Once you show you're viable, the likelihood is you get support."

A one-time rising star, Blakeman headed the county legislature for its first four years and while there ran a losing 1998 statewide race against Democratic Comptroller Carl McCall, though he raised $2 million making the run. Of late, he is probably best known as the ex-husband of rock star Paul McCartney's girlfriend, Nancy Shevell.

Blakeman declared himself a candidate for New York City mayor until Michael Bloomberg was able to change the term-limit law. "I spent $100,000 of my own money . . . but I'm not dumb enough to run against an incumbent with $8 billion," he said.

The former lawmaker has re-emerged in recent weeks as the names of far more high-powered potential contenders - former Gov. George Pataki and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani - seem to be fading.

However, some consider Blakeman a second-tier candidate, who could get the party's nod but would be a long shot in November in a state where Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans 5 million to 3 million.

"He wants to be next year's Ed Mangano," said lobbyist Desmond Ryan, referring to Nassau's new county executive-elect who won a huge upset unseating Democratic incumbent Thomas Suozzi last month. "He's hoping to catch lightning in the bottle."

Blakeman sees similarities for those opposing Gillibrand - an impatience with incumbents and angry public mood. "My sense is that she is an unelected senator who was appointed and really has no record of achievement," he said. "People . . . are angry and frightened and unless Democrats make a 180-degree turn, the public is going to continue to worry."

But some question whether Blakeman can raise as much as the $20 million a statewide Senate run may require and if national Republicans will invest money here rather than in smaller red states where the GOP has better prospects at lower cost. They also say that if Democrats have primaries, their candidates may dominate the media into September, giving them momentum for the general election.

"He's formidable," said Jay Jacobs, state and Nassau Democratic leader, of Blakeman. "But he's not known statewide and hasn't been engaged in electoral politics in 10 years . . . The Republican bench is nearly empty and they have to reach for candidates who don't immediately come to mind."

Jacobs also said he expects this year's low Democratic turnout will not be repeated in 2010, with voters far more energized once the economy starts to come back and Congress passes a health care bill and deals with other issues.

"I think Kirsten will clean his clock," Jacobs said. But, he added, "After this election, I don't dismiss any Republican."

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