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Levy sets $1M fundraising goal, courts both parties

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy has set an ambitious goal to raise $1 million over the next two months and said he may even seek the nomination of both major parties for governor.

Levy, a Democrat, made the comments following a Woodbury business breakfast, after two whirlwind weeks in which he has met state GOP chairman Edward Cox, upstate GOP county leaders and state Conservative chairman Michael Long.

The county executive denied a published report Monday that he told Republican leaders he'd change parties if they clear the field to give him the GOP nomination. "I have not said that," said Levy, noting there is legally no way for him to change parties and have it take effect before the next Election Day.

He said it is not for him to dictate to GOP leaders. "I can't run on the Republican line unless . . . [GOP] leaders decided I was worthy of designation." He added, "It would be silly of me" to demand other candidates "get out of the way."

Levy, a combative, fiscal conservative with a hard-line stand against illegal immigration, is hoping to capitalize on the public anger that has fueled the Tea Party movement and local GOP wins last fall and the stunning U.S. Senate upset in Massachusetts last week. "I don't stay up awake at night thinking am I going to be running in this direction or that direction," said Levy, "I'm running straight ahead to solve the state's fiscal woes and turn it upside down."

Levy also said, "I'm the one being pursued," adding he would "not shy away" from major and minor party cross-endorsements like he got in his 2007 re-election.

He also would not discount his chances in a Democratic primary. "In a one-on-one matchup it's hard," Levy said. "But when there are different people drawing from different demographics, it becomes interesting" especially if other contenders "are tearing each other down."

Gov. David A. Paterson's campaign and the camp of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, a likely gubernatorial contender, declined to comment.

"It is inconceivable that the Republican Party would nominate a guy whose best friend is Sheldon Silver, praised Eliot Spitzer, and worked his tail off to elect John Kerry president of the United States. It absolutely will not happen and it should not happen," said Rick Lazio campaign manager Kevin Fullington.

Levy, who has $4.1 million in his campaign coffers, said, "I want to raise $1 million over the next month or two to show viability."

The county executive has a $500-a-head fundraiser planned for Feb. 22.

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