Carl P. Paladino has laid down the terms he says are necessary for Republican Rob Astorino to gain his support in the 2014 contest for governor.
The Westchester County executive must call for the replacement of Senate Republican Leader Dean G. Skelos and Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb, Paladino says, or he will launch his own candidacy on the Conservative line.
“I made a commitment,” Paladino said Thursday, the day after meeting with Astorino in Erie County Republican Headquarters.
Paladino, the 2010 GOP candidate for governor, said he likes Astorino, is impressed with his resumé and agrees with virtually all of his stands. But he noted that Skelos’ “treachery” in helping pass the NY SAFE Act, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s gun-control legislation, should make his replacement a priority.
“He should do it,” he said of Astorino. “He should demand the resignation of Skelos first for his treachery in allowing the SAFE Act to go to the floor.”
Paladino has grown more and more strident in recent weeks in his opposition to the Legislature’s top Republican leaders, even suggesting State GOP Chairman Edward F. Cox should demand similar commitments from county chairmen across the state. But while many Republican leaders hoped this week’s meeting would result in Paladino’s approval and cement opposition against Cuomo for next year, Paladino said Thursday he is not yet ready to go that far.
“If he and Cox will not buy into that program,” he said of Astorino, “they should stop wasting our time.”
He also said he believes a partywide effort against the legislative leaders will galvanize the independents and “Reagan Democrats” necessary to successfully challenge Cuomo, despite the admiration he said he holds for Astorino.
But even some of Paladino’s closest allies are wondering if he is asking too much, noting especially that no governor – let alone no candidate – can realistically dictate such demands to a separate branch of government. Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy, who arranged the Wednesday meeting, said he is hoping Paladino will accept Astorino as a candidate who reflects a host of conservative values and is coming off a convincing re-election victory in a solidly Democratic county.
“It is my hope we united the party behind his candidacy,” the chairman said of Astorino. “Carl and I have different missions. I want to elect a Republican governor, and I think most Conservatives around the state want a conservative Republican, too.”
Others point out that as a registered Republican, Paladino is not guaranteed a place on a Conservative primary ballot that might feature Astorino as the party’s endorsed candidate. Those familiar with Conservative Party mechanics note that Paladino could qualify if his name were placed in nomination by a party member such as close ally Ralph C. Lorigo, chairman of the Erie County party and if he received 25 percent of the vote at the Conservative convention in the spring.
But they also point to Lorigo’s weakened statewide position after allies of State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, successfully challenged several Lorigo committee members, especially in Niagara County, during the last primary election. Lorigo was unavailable to comment about Paladino’s demand; he has been promoting Paladino as a candidate on the Conservative line should the GOP fail to find an acceptable candidate.
Astorino spokeswoman Jessica Proud was also unavailable to comment.