Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the state's most formidable Republican political figure, says business commitments will prevent him from running in 2010 for either governor or U.S. Senate. Instead, he gave a warm endorsement to former U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio for governor at a midtown Manhattan news conference with Lazio Tuesday.
"I would have enjoyed running for either office, but this just isn't the right time," said Giuliani, citing several commitments with his rapidly growing law firm and consulting practice.
But Giuliani said Lazio, 51, of Brightwaters, brings "exactly what the state needs right now, which is fiscal discipline. He was a fiscal conservative when he was a member of Congress."
Lazio, a former four-term member of the House and managing director at JPMorgan Chase in Manhattan, said the state is looking at a long-term deficit and a "state government that doesn't have the foggiest idea of how to close" it.
Lazio, who lost the 2000 U.S. Senate race to Hillary Rodham Clinton, said he wouldn't be in the same position that Gov. David A. Paterson because "I wouldn't have signed the budget bill in the spring." He said people have lost faith in a government that "overtaxes, overspends and overreaches."
Giuliani's announcement was a source of cheer for Democrats, who are bracing themselves for a pivotal election season. Most of the state's top jobs are up for grabs next year, the state and U.S. Senate hang in the balance, and steep losses for Democrats in local races this year showed the opportunities for Republican candidates despite the Democratic enrollment edge.
And Giuliani, who became a national hero after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, remains one of the party's elder statesmen and a sought-after speaker and commentator, despite his poor showing in the 2008 presidential race.
"He's a prominent candidate who has almost universal name recognition statewide, and the ability to raise money statewide, and any time there's one less of them to worry about, it's good news" for Democrats, said Christopher Hahn, head of government affairs for the Mineola law firm of Meltzer Lippe.
Indeed, while Giuliani had lagged in the polls behind the strongest Democratic contender for governor, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the former mayor was viewed favorably by 58 percent of the state's electorate and bested Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in a theoretical race by 48 percent to 42 percent, according to a Siena Research Institute poll released last week.
Giuliani noted he has traveled to Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Britain and other countries for his law firm, Bracewell & Giuliani, and his consulting firm, Giuliani Partners LLC, which has been retained by the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro to provide security for the 2016 Olympics.
"My life is interesting," he said. "Having built things up to where we are right now and then walking out on it . . . that would be a big mistake."
Giuliani, 65, would not rule out a future run for office. "I'm not thinking about it; I might; I don't know. When I get to be 69, God willing, I'll find out what kind of shape I'm in."
With Pervaiz Shallwani