Political novice and tea party ally Carl Paladino has shocked the Republican party designee after forcing his way into the race for the nomination for New York governor. With 58 percent of precincts reporting, Paladino had 65 percent of the vote to former Congressman Rick Lazio’s 35 percent.
Paladino rode a wave of voter anger on his way to delivering another blow to the GOP in a heavily Democratic state.
There was a deafening cheer in Paladino’s Buffalo headquarters when it was announced The Associated Press had called the race for Paladino, who promises to “take a baseball bat” to dysfunctional government in Albany.
“If we’ve learned anything tonight, it’s that New Yorkers are mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore!” Paladino said. “The people have spoken.”
He then welcomed Republicans who opposed him to join “the peoples’ crusade.”
John Faso, the 2006 Republican candidate for governor, said Paladino tapped “the feeling of dismay and discontent” among voters. “And in Carl Paladino, they had a perfect vehicle to voice that dissatisfaction,” Faso told the local television news channel NY1.
Even state Republican Chairman Ed Cox, who had backed two candidates before embracing Paladino, called Paladino a tough competitor who would make a good governor.
Lazio hadn’t conceded and was awaiting returns from all of Long Island, his base when he was a congressman.
As for Lazio, he was trounced upstate, where in his 2000 race for U.S. Senate against Hillary Rodham Clinton he made the mistake of saying the region’s economy had “turned the corner.”
Paladino, a millionaire Buffalo developer, will now take on the popular and well-financed Democratic attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, in November.
Paladino lost to Lazio at the state GOP convention but then petitioned his way to the primary by securing 30,000 Republican signatures statewide.
“I don’t know if he wins if he’d beat Cuomo, but I hope he does,” said Kenneth Bray, a 54-year-old woodworker from Buffalo. Bray’s goal: “Getting rid of the bums in Albany.”
Paladino, 64, does little to follow traditional politics, bucking party bosses along the way. He has courted tea party activists angry over high taxes and the major political parties.
Lazio beat the more conservative Paladino in the Republican convention in June, and Paladino responded by gaining 30,000 Republican signatures to force Tuesday’s primary. Lazio beat Paladino in the Conservative convention in May, and Paladino responded by creating his own Taxpayers line and backing the Erie County Conservative chairman to fight Lazio along the way.
After a nasty summer campaign that brought national headlines for both Republicans’ opposition to a proposed mosque a couple of blocks from ground zero, the race was a dead heat heading into the primary, according to a Siena College poll released Saturday. Polls to that point had shown Paladino gaining momentum just as he unleashed hundreds of thousands of dollars in TV and radio ads Lazio’s underfunded campaign can’t match.
Cuomo, the one-term attorney general, has a better than 2-to-1 edge in the polls over Paladino and more than $23 million in his campaign account, compared with less than $1 million in Lazio’s. Paladino has promised to spend up to $10 million in the whole campaign, but has spent just a fraction of that so far in his underdog effort.
Lazio also had a Conservative primary for that minor party’s ballot line that has been crucial for Republicans running statewide.