ALBANY - Rick Lazio made a forceful foray into Republican circles here in the Capitol Thursday in a bid to counter the efforts a day earlier of his new gubernatorial rival, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy.
"I just want you to know I'm in this to the end," Lazio told lawmakers, in talks with the minority Assembly and Senate delegations that emphasized his credentials as a lifelong Republican whose candidacy would boost their numbers and political clout.
"There's one [candidate] that supported Barack Obama and Eliot Spitzer and Hillary Clinton, and one that did not," Lazio later said he'd told lawmakers. "There's one Republican that's going to be on the Conservative line, and that's me."
Lazio was warmly greeted, with something Levy didn't get when he visited a day earlier - a standing ovation from Assembly members, as well as a big bear hug from Hamburg Assemb. Jack Quinn III, a State Senate candidate whose father served with Lazio in Congress.
And many Republicans who went into the meetings complaining that Lazio's campaign has been missing a "wow factor" and has lagged in fundraising, came out reassured.
"He was fired up, and I think he realizes there's competition out there," said Assemb. James Conte (R-Huntington Station). "For him, I think competition is going to be good."
Levy's record as a budget-balancing county executive holds special appeal for some Republicans, who believe that this year's dire economy offers them a chance to win statewide if they can credibly claim to be the party of fiscal reform.
"Steve Levy's experience and record is excellent and it is what the situation requires," said Assemb. Michael J. Fitzpatrick (R-St. James), the Assembly's most conservative member. Lazio, he believes, will have to "out-Levy Levy" with a detailed reform plan if he wants to win.
But others, such as Assemb. Andrew Raia (R-Huntington), like Lazio's emphasis on his readiness to work for GOP legislative victories, and his deep GOP roots, where Levy has cast himself as "postpartisan."
"There's no 'I' in team," was how Raia summed up Lazio's pitch.
Similar reviews followed Lazio's session with senators.