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Wojtaszek's exit in GOP race boosts Cox N.Y. City lawyer likely to head the state party

Manhattan lawyer Edward F. Cox appears headed for the state Republican chairmanship after his only opponent, Niagara County Chairman Henry F. Wojtaszek, withdrew from the contest late Thursday.

Wojtaszek, who had mounted a late but serious charge with backing from top Republicans such as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Gov. George E. Pataki, issued a statement indicating he planned to "suspend" his campaign.

In it, he alluded to his deference to departing Chairman Joseph N. Mondello of Nassau County, who Wojtaszek allies say waited too long to withdraw from the race and clear the way for the upstater's candidacy.

"Out of respect for his years of service to our party, I waited for Chairman Mondello to reveal his plans for the coming election before formally announcing my candidacy," Wojtaszek said. "It's clear now that the way that timeline worked out was detrimental to my efforts."

While sources said that there has been no communication between the two candidates, Wojtaszek said he looks forward to the embattled state GOP making progress under Cox.

"I am encouraged that Ed Cox already has announced substantial financial commitments to help rebuild our party," he said. "I look forward to a party structure that will help us win races at the local level and give a greater voice to individual county chairmen."

All signs in recent days pointed toward Cox gaining steam in his drive to succeed Mondello. Cox, a son-in-law of the late President Richard M. Nixon and a State University of New York trustee, had attracted about 70 percent of the state's chairmen to his cause in recent days.

Though some observers believed that the involvement of Giuliani -- considered the top GOP prospect for governor next year -- boded well for Wojtaszek, he was never able to overcome Cox's initial momentum.

"I thank Henry Wojtaszek for his commitment to seeing us move forward united and strong," Cox said. "Henry has a bright future in this party. I am looking forward to working with him, along with all the other county leaders to rebuild our Republican Party for the benefit of all New Yorkers."

Wojtaszek is expected to remain as Niagara County chairman and return to the Harris Beach law firm, from which he resigned earlier this summer to pursue the state chairmanship.

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com

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