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EDITORIAL: Levy brings fiscal focus to governor's race

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy marches down Fifth

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy marches down Fifth Avenue during this year's annual St. Patrick's Day parade in Manhattan. (March 17, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

To Steve Levy's credit, he enters the governor's race with a clearly laid out plan to make the state pare its spending to match its vastly reduced revenues. You can argue with the details, but it makes this clear: Every candidate for governor must deal honestly with voters on this issue.

A lot of attention is being focused on the announcement today by Suffolk's Democratic county executive that he's becoming a Republican and seeking the GOP nomination. But the more important question is: How does he change the race?

Levy's legendary frugality gives him authentic credentials as a cost-cutter and makes him attractive to many Republicans, Conservatives and Tea Party activists. But he does have liabilities: He has a relentlessly combative governing style, and his rhetoric about undocumented immigrants has too often been intemperate and inflammatory. He's also prone to making headlines that don't help him, such as crashing Wednesday's St. Patrick's Day Parade in Manhattan.

Looking ahead, there's no guarantee he'll get the GOP nomination. The other Long Island candidate for that honor, Rick Lazio, isn't going to go away quietly - nor should he. His service in Congress was worthy, and he deserves a hearing.

But whether Levy is in the race only briefly, or all the way to November, his relentless focus on the fiscal issues should force other candidates in all parties to say what they'd do to tame the budget beast. And that's no small contribution. hN

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