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Lazio says Levy shouldn't pretend to be Republican

Congressman Rick Lazio receives the endorsement of Joseph

Congressman Rick Lazio receives the endorsement of Joseph Mondello as he plans to run for governor. (January 20, 2010) Credit: Photo by Photo by Howard Schnapp

If Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy wants to run for governor, he shouldn't pretend to be a Republican to do it, candidate Rick Lazio said Friday in a letter to GOP county leaders.

Levy, a Democrat who's attracted Republican votes with his eagerness to cut spending and fight illegal immigration, has more than $4 million in campaign money and has explored a run for governor - leaving unanswered the question of which party he would represent.

Lazio, the former Republican congressman from Brightwaters, lost the U.S. Senate race to Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2000. He wrote Friday that Levy has no place in the GOP, particularly after his years as a Democrat in the state Assembly under Speaker Sheldon Silver.

"I want you to know that there is no chance that I would allow or support Steve Levy, a Shelly Silver Democrat, to have any nomination on our statewide party ticket . . ." Lazio wrote. "A true conservative would not have voted for the largest tax increase in New York history . . . and certainly would not have called the Obama stimulus package 'manna from heaven' that would 'save lives.' But Steve Levy did."

Lazio spokesman Barney Keller said the campaign sent the letter in response to Levy's recent visibility. "We wanted to make Rick's position known," Keller said.

Levy said in a prepared statement: "Rather than disparage Rick, I'll stress that I'm the only one who has been [an] executive, cut taxes and has a specific plan to save our state from bankruptcy."

Levy aides also pointed out that the taxes that Lazio mentioned came in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attack, had the support of State Senate Republicans and have all expired.

Mike Dawidziak, a Levy campaign consultant who worked for Lazio's Senate campaign, said he was "disappointed" by Lazio's letter.

"When a candidate does this, it shows they are fearful of other challengers and it makes them look weaker," Dawidziak said.

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