N.Y. governor says he won't seek fourth term

Pataki ends speculation

Republican is expected to seek presidency in '08

July 28, 2005|By Errol A. Cockfield Jr. | Errol A. Cockfield Jr.,NEWSDAY

ALBANY, N.Y. - Ending much of the guesswork about his political future, Republican Gov. George E. Pataki, the once obscure state senator who unseated Democratic giant Mario M. Cuomo, announced yesterday that he would not seek a fourth term in 2006.

It had been widely expected that Pataki, now the nation's longest-serving governor, would sidestep a potent challenge from state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, and instead focus on a possible presidential bid in 2008.

Recent polls in New York showed Pataki trailing Spitzer, a Democrat, in a possible 2006 gubernatorial matchup. The governor's approval rating slipped to an all-time low among New York voters this year.

"I will follow a new path, find new challenges," Pataki told supporters in the State Capitol yesterday.

Pataki made no explicit mention then of a White House run. But he alluded to one during a private dinner Tuesday night with more than two dozen of his closest advisers and confidants at the governor's mansion.

One ally who attended said the governor flirted with the possibility. "You may have heard that I was in Iowa the other day," the insider recalled Pataki saying. "I kind of liked Iowa." Then the governor laughed.

Two weeks ago Pataki visited the state, home of the first presidential contest, for a National Governors Association meeting. He toured the area, playing the part of the presidential candidate, as he mingled with locals.

Pataki's decision not to run, analysts said, is part of a strategy to distance himself from the political scene in New York and reshape himself as a national figure. If he runs for president, Pataki, 60, is betting that voters will embrace a moderate who supports abortion and gay rights but is tough on crime.

"He needs to be a national candidate who is from New York, not a New York candidate," said Gerald Benjamin, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Science at SUNY New Paltz. "The New York Republican Party is out of sync with the Republican Party nationally."

Pataki has been pressed by Republicans and others to announce his intentions. Now that he's bowed out, the party can turn its attention to competing against Spitzer, known for his aggressive investigations of financial wrongdoing.

Aides to Rudolph W. Giuliani have said the former New York City mayor is too busy with private business interests to run for governor. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said this week that he has no interest. Former Massachusetts Gov. William F. Weld, who moved back to his native New York five years ago, has said he would look at running if Pataki bowed out.

Pataki was an unknown when he defeated Cuomo in 1994, but he benefited from a party apparatus that marketed him as the un-Cuomo.

Keeping a campaign promise, Pataki helped reinstate New York's death penalty, but then saw it nullified last year after a court ruled a provision unconstitutional. Perhaps the most lasting imprint of Pataki's policies will be his record on the environment. His administration has preserved about 1 million acres of open space.

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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