Suffolk Executive Steve Levy - who's been exchanging barbs daily with rival ex-Rep. Rick Lazio - traded fire Thursday with Carl Paladino, a third prospect for the GOP nomination for governor.

Paladino, an Erie County businessman who has said he could spend $10 million of his own money on a campaign, claimed in recent days that Levy is still a "liberal Democrat" despite joining the GOP last month.

At a lower Manhattan news conference, Levy, a self-described "fiscal hawk," was citing positive feedback from Tea Party activists when a reporter mentioned Paladino.

"He's going to fizzle real quick," Levy said. "He really reminds me of Jesse 'the Body' Ventura. Remember, from Minnesota? You know, colorful guy, coming out with the boas and talking all this 'I'm mad as hell' routine . . . That's not policy," Levy said. "He has shown no understanding of what the state is about, what the problems are, or what the solutions are."

Paladino changed from Democrat to Republican in 2005. "This is an 11 on a hypocrisy scale of one to 10," Levy said. "He says, 'You know I didn't just become a Republican yesterday.' No, [you] became a Republican five years ago, and what are you, 60 years old? Give me a break! You know, it's comical." (Paladino is 64).

Paladino spokesman Michael Caputo said, "At the end of the day, Carl has been looking out for good government in Western New York for 40 years."

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