WXXI Local Stories
5:48 pm
Wed September 30, 2009

State Parties Meet, Plan for 2010 Races

Albany, New York – The statewide elections are more than one year away, but the contests were on the minds of many in New York's political world this week as both major parties held their annual meetings.

Democrats met Wednesday in Buffalo, where they heard from Governor David Paterson. The governor, despite his extremely low poll numbers and requests from the Obama Administration to not enter the race, continues to say he's running for governor next year. And he told the audience he was not afraid to address what he called "the elephant in the room", the lingering doubts about his ability to win.

"I am proud of the decisions that I have made over the last eighteen months," said Paterson. "And I don't think any elephants or donkeys should be telling voters who to vote for or how to vote in the state of New York."

The Democrats also heard from Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who at a breakfast meeting, gave a speech listing his accomplishments as AG. He also criticized New York's high taxes and advocated government consolidation.

"We're going to have to balance that budget in totally different way," said Cuomo. "We're going to have to reorganize this government."

So far, though, the state's most popular democrat says he's just running for re-election as Attorney General, though he has never ruled out a bid for a higher office.

Many Democrats fear that Paterson at the top of the ticket could result in a loss of the governor's office, and possibly the Democrats' recently gained control of the State Senate, as well as the US Senate seat held by Kirsten Gillibrand, whom Paterson appointed to that post.

New York's Republicans also met this week, and were contending with problems of their own. In the last two statewide elections, the GOP has lost the Governor's post and control of the State Senate.

Newly elected GOP state party chair Ed Cox, son- in-law of former President Richard Nixon, says Republicans need to make a comeback. Many at the meeting have hopes that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be a candidate for governor. Cox, perhaps anticipating that Attorney General Cuomo might ultimately be the Democrat's nominee, says Giuliani could also do well running for Senate against Kirsten Gillibrand.

Cox called Gillibrand a "political chameleon" for shifting her views from conservative to liberal on many issues, and said she looks "very vulnerable at this point".

Cox did not back Giuliani when the former mayor ran for President in 2008. He instead headed John McCain's efforts in New York. Giuliani tried to organize opposition to Cox's bid to chair the state GOP, and he backed Niagara County GOP Chair Henry Wojtaszek. Wojtaszek had to drop out for lack of support. Cox says he has not spoken to Giuliani directly since becoming party chair, but says their staffs have been in contact.

Republicans believe that the troubled term of Governor David Paterson, who ascended to the post when Eliot Spitzer resigned over a scandal, and the chaos in the State Senate, which is now controlled by Democrats, can work in the GOP's favor.

The leader of the Republicans in the State Senate, Dean Skelos, called the Senate's recent power struggle an example of "bring in the clowns", and he criticized the Democrats for agreeing to a budget that increased spending by over 10% and raised billions of dollars in new taxes and fees.

"That's unconscionable," said Skelos.

Other possible Republican candidates for statewide office include former Governor George Pataki, who Party Chair Cox says would also be a good candidate for the Gillibrand Senate seat. Former Long Island Congressman Rick Lazio, who is little known around the state at this point, has already announced he's running for governor.