Republican gubernatorial candidate John J. Faso picked up a major endorsement from Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph C. Lorigo on Thursday, giving him support from a key component of the crucial minor party.
Lorigo, a West Seneca lawyer and a major figure in the statewide organization, said Faso appears to be the strongest candidate in the field of four. It puts him at odds with the statewide GOP leadership that has been coalescing behind former Massachusetts Gov. William F. Weld, and comes just days before all four Republican candidates make their pitch to Conservative delegates meeting next week for an informal conference in Albany.
"John Faso will cut taxes, eliminate mandates which increase property taxes, and fight for policies which create jobs," Lorigo said. "Not only do I endorse John Faso for governor, I will work for an early Conservative Party endorsement of his candidacy."
Such an early Conservative nod could force the Republicans to recognize the possibility of a separate Conservative candidacy in Faso, especially since Weld is so far sparking little Conservative interest. No Republican has won statewide office without Conservative support since 1974.
Faso, a former Assembly minority leader from Kinderhook, said he still expects to be the nominee of both the Republican and Conservative parties. He views that combination as imperative in light of the early lead in the polls by Democrat Eliot L. Spitzer, the state attorney general and front-running Democratic gubernatorial candidate.
"Western New York has paid a high price for 40 years of bad fiscal policy in Albany, which has chased away jobs and burdened families with the highest taxes in the nation," Faso said. "The families of Western New York need jobs and tax relief now."
Faso still faces stiff Conservative opposition from Assemblyman Patrick R. Manning of East Fishkill, who this week picked up support from the Conservative organizations in Chautauqua, Genesee and Suffolk counties.
The fourth candidate in the GOP gubernatorial field is Randy A. Daniels of the Bronx, who served as New York secretary of state from 2001 until 2005.