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Steve Levy's longshot: What may lie ahead

For Democratic Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy to be sworn in as governor next January, he'd need to travel a treacherous - many say impossible - path into November.

Running as a Democrat. With his own party's nomination likely to go to state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who still has not even officially entered the race, Levy could throw the dice on a long shot primary against the front-runner. His fellow Democratic county executive, Nassau's Thomas Suozzi, tried that in 2006 and failed. Levy, who's only said he's "exploring" the run, might have had a better shot in a primary if there were multiple candidates splitting the vote, requiring only a plurality rather than a majority. As Suozzi did then, Levy can point to fiscal measures he's taken as an executive as appropriate training for governor. Unlike Suozzi, however, Levy would face firm resistance from party regulars who, for example, take a dim view of his rhetoric on immigration.

Crossing Over. Levy's only alternative route could be a still-unlikely Republican nomination. But he's attracting attention on that score only because some GOP and Conservative Party leaders are still talking about him - even though ex-Brightwaters congressman Rick Lazio was already deemed the presumptive nominee by state chairman Ed Cox, and Levy isn't even a committed candidate. Also, Levy has yet to renounce the party to which he's belonged throughout his long elected career.

A Lazio Implosion. For Levy to defect, many GOP county chairpeople would have to make an about-face and decide Lazio, whose fundraising has been anemic, should not be their candidate. According to Lazio backers, who deem all the talk absurd, Levy, as a non-party member, would require 51 percent of the GOP's weighted vote at the party's convention in early June to reach the ballot. One Republican Levy skeptic said last week, "He must think he can do statewide what he does in Suffolk - get all the lines to back him. [But] this is a whole different situation."

Third Party Factor. Conservatives, whose support is considered key in Republican runs for governor, have demanded a quick commitment of candidacy from Levy and a rejection of Cuomo policies as a pre-condition. Despite backing from the Suffolk and Nassau Conservative chairmen, Michael Long, the third-party's veteran state chair, wondered aloud last Saturday if Levy was just building up exposure and funds for a re-election race, or even giving Cuomo more time to jump in. Long said he's about to "close the door" and back Lazio soon. He noted he hasn't heard anything critical of Cuomo from Levy.

The Biggest Hurdle. Levy would likely have to still beat Cuomo, who's already a well-funded, high-polling statewide player.

For the two-term county executive, the fun he's been having is either the beginning of a bold adventure - or a final round of speculation on his prospects this year.

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