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Lazio criticizes Cuomo; Levy eyes independent run

GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio addresses the Conservative

GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio addresses the Conservative Party in Colonie, New York on Feb. 1, 2010. Credit: Times Union

COLONIE, N.Y. - Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio Monday accused Democratic favorite Andrew Cuomo of "ducking" questions about the state's problems, while Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy wouldn't rule out an independent run for governor.

Lazio, a former congressman from Brightwaters, appears to have clinched the GOP ballot line with endorsements from 22 county leaders. Together, they represent nearly 61 percent of the vote needed at the party's nominating convention. He will likely receive the Conservative line as well, officials said.

Still, Levy shows no signs of scuttling his exploratory committee, launching Tuesday a campaign Web site: The Democrat will decide around April 1 whether to run, but acknowledged thinking about going it alone if no party backs him.

"Even if you don't win that type of independent campaign, you are shaping policy and that's something that's very important to me," Levy said after speaking here to the state Conservative Party. "Can it be viable? I don't know."

Neither Suffolk politician was critical of the other or mentioned Gov. David A. Paterson, the only declared Democrat.

But Lazio laid into Cuomo, the attorney general who hasn't publicly said he will run for governor this year. "He locked himself in his office and watched as Albany burned," Lazio said.

He blasted Cuomo's alleged silence on the budget deficits, government corruption, national health care reform and the Sept. 11 terror trials. He said Cuomo could be defeated as Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, a Democrat, was last month by Republican Scott Brown in a race for the U.S. Senate.

"You can't lead from a foxhole," quipped Lazio.

Cuomo aide Richard Bamberger replied that "the attorney general is focused on his public service representing the people of the state by fighting corruption and greed on Wall Street and rooting out waste and abuse in government."

Levy's chances of securing Republican or Conservative backing dimmed Monday. GOP state chief Edward Cox called Lazio "our presumptive nominee."

Levy's message of tax and spending cuts, opposition to illegal immigration and denunciation of political correctness was received warmly, however. Activist George Marlin, of New Hyde Park, said "Steve Levy raised the roof with his fiscal conservatism and seriousness of purpose."

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