New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Levy speaks to reporters...

New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Levy speaks to reporters during the New York State Republican Convention. (June 1, 2010) Credit: AP

ALBANY -- Suffolk Executive Steve Levy's decision to not run for re-election and forfeit his $4.1 million campaign chest shakes up Republican politics across the state, opening the field for 2014 gubernatorial candidates, political observers said.

Levy, a Democrat turned Republican, was considered a potentially formidable challenger to Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, with his mix of name recognition, campaign fundraising prowess and a reputation for fiscal conservatism.

"Any time you can get an elected official with $4 million out of the race, it makes it easier for anyone else who's interested," said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford).

Now, GOP politicians such as Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, Western New York Assemb. Jane Corwin or any of the state's Republican members of Congress may have a clearer path to seeking the party's nod.

"It propels everybody ahead of Levy," said Stanley Klein, a political science professor at C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University and a Suffolk GOP committeeman. "This could be a political tsunami for New York State."

State GOP chairman Ed Cox played down Levy's impact statewide, saying his fundraising problems appeared to happen before he turned Republican last March. With or without Levy, Cox said the party had a "deep bench" to take on Cuomo, holding 14 of the state's 17 county executive positions.

"We have a lot of good political talent that will be ready to challenge the Democrats," Cox said.

The cloud surrounding Levy also presumably removes him as one of Cuomo's more vocal critics. Levy had been unbowed by the governor's popularity, criticizing a recent report from Cuomo's office with the quip, "78 pages of nothing."

Ultimately, it's too soon to know, but Levy might have been the Republicans' best shot, some observers said.

"If indeed we have a very strong governor going forward, cutting spending, there may be an unlikelihood of a strong Republican field emerging," said Gerald Benjamin, a SUNY New Paltz political science professor and a former Republican Ulster County legislator. "It's a negative development for Republicans."

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