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Peter King says he's being urged to run for Senate

Rep. Peter King on Capitol Hill on Dec.

Rep. Peter King on Capitol Hill on Dec. 15, 2009. Credit: AP File, 2009

U.S. Rep. Peter King may be back in the running for the U.S. Senate.

The Seaford Republican officially bowed out of a 2010 contest with Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand four months ago, saying her lack of name recognition would make it hard for him to draw the voter attention he needed to win.

But Tuesday, King said top state and national Republicans, including former Bush administration adviser Karl Rove and state chairman Edward Cox, have been phoning over the past couple of weeks, urging him to reconsider. Tuesday, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani also expressed support for him.

"They said they want me to run, and what they could do for me as far as fundraising, as far as clearing the field, all that type of thing," he said. "I told them I would spend the Christmas holidays talking it over with my family and friends and let them know by early in the year."

Attempts to reach Rove and Cox were unsuccessful last night.

King had publicly toyed with the race a year ago, when speculation centered on Caroline Kennedy being tapped to fill Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate seat.

But this race would be more difficult, King said, not least because of the estimated $30 million needed "just to get into the ballgame."

King also is at a disadvantage in a statewide race; summer polling by the Siena Research Institute showed he was little known outside Long Island and trailed Gillibrand by 22 points in a theoretical matchup.

He contends that a contest against a liberal lightning rod such as Kennedy would have assured national media attention and a stream of campaign funds from around the country, but Gillibrand's obscurity means most of the exposure in this race must come from paid ads.

And if he did win, he'd only be serving the remaining two years of Clinton's unexpired term, and would have to run again in 2012 - with President Barack Obama expected to lead the Democratic ticket, King noted.

Also, King would have to give up his House seat, where his seniority has given him coveted committee assignments.

"Having said all that, to be a U.S. senator is a great honor," King said.

In July, King said Gillibrand's low poll numbers could be an easy mark for a well-financed Republican.

In another possible sign of the wooing, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani tossed King a bouquet at a news conference called to endorse Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio. "Pete King is someone I encouraged to run for the Senate way back," Giuliani told reporters, calling the congressman a "terrific candidate."

"I think he's exactly the kind of candidate the country needs: a guy who is plain-spoken and tough, and understands the state as well as anyone." Giuliani went on to note that he and King had served together as summer associates at the law firm of Nixon, Mudge, "so I know Pete forever."

King said he was gratified - but surprised - by Giuliani's comments and all the attention. "I'm not generating this," he said.

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