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Levy scores points with State Senate Republicans

   ALBANY -- If GOP gubernatorial hopeful Rick Lazio was planning on Senate Republicans
roughing up Democrat-turned-Republican Steve Levy, it wasn't happening today at the state

   Levy, the Suffolk County executive who recently switched parties to run against Lazio,
addressed a closed-door meeting of Senate Republicans to outline his campaign and message for
victory against likely Democratic nominee Andrew Cuomo.

   "I was pleasantly surprised how receptive the members were. They want to win. These guys
want to win. They want their majority back," Levy said of Senate Republicans, who lost control
of the 62-member house in 2008 after seven decades of dominance.

   Levy has been making the point to Republicans that Lazio, a former Long Island congressman,
has not caught fire with voters. In the January financial filing with the state Elections
Board, Levy's county executive campaign account -- which can be transferred over to his run
for governor -- had $4.1 million on hand, compared to $640,000 in Lazio's account.

   One powerful Senate Republican said Levy, a former member of the Assembly, raised his
profile during the meeting. "I think people were very impressed, very impressed," said the
Republican lawmaker, who spoke on condition of anonymity and said Levy brought an impressive
message that has mirrored many of the Senate GOP positions, such as a spending cap.

   "This is going to be a very interesting race," the lawmaker said.

   Before the meeting, Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos said he thinks it is "terrific" that
Levy has entered the race against Lazio. While still supportive of Lazio, Skelos said a GOP
primary will excite the party and voters.

   After the session, Sen. Catherine Young, R-Olean, said Levy preached a Republican message.
"He was received very positively," Young said of Levy, who she called "an impressive guy with
quite a track record."

   "Competition is always healthy and we need the strongest candidate going into the election.
It will be up to Levy and Rick to articulate their messages going forward," she added.

   "He had the right message," Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, said of Levy. Maziarz is a
Lazio supporter.

   Lazio meets with the Senate Republicans Thursday.

   -- Tom Precious

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