The chairman of the state Conservative Party has asked Ralph C. Lorigo to resign as chairman of the Erie County party as a result of his "stealth candidacy" for governor in an effort that ultimately may help Republican gubernatorial hopeful Carl P. Paladino.
In a letter sent Monday, Michael R. Long, the state chairman, asked Lorigo -- who now appears on the party's primary ballot against Rick Lazio, the endorsed Republican candidate -- to renounce his candidacy and back Lazio.
He also wants Lorigo to resign as the party's state vice chairman.
"I have never dealt with anyone who has participated in such a destructive act to hurt the party," Long said Monday.
But Lorigo said his candidacy for governor on the Conservative line is actually a bid to "save" the party, since he does not believe Lazio will secure the 50,000 votes in the November general election required for a party to remain on the ballot. He said Lazio's more moderate positions on such issues as abortion and gun control will not attract Conservative voters, prompting his own campaign.
"My candidacy is not about me," Lorigo said. "It's about preserving the Conservative Party in a year when it nominated a baby killer who wants to take away our guns."
Lorigo previously has said he would maneuver through election law technicalities so that if the Buffalo developer wins the Republican primary in September, Paladino's name also would appear on the Conservative Party line on the November ballot -- where he could draw votes on the party's behalf.
Now, Lorigo emphasizes he will take whatever action he deems necessary to safeguard the future of the party.
"My main thrust is for people to have the ability to vote for a pro-life, pro-gun, pro-traditional marriage and fiscally responsible candidate," Lorigo said.
He added that he will continue his candidacy in spite of Long's efforts and despite the fact that his lieutenant governor candidate -- John Andrew Kay has declined the nomination.
Long, the veteran state chairman of the often influential minor party, said he never acceded to Lorigo's strong push for Paladino because of the "racist and pornographic" e-mails the candidate acknowledged forwarding to friends over the past several years. He also said Lorigo told him Paladino would finance his anti-Lazio campaign with about $500,000.
"I believe he severely hurt himself with that e-mail operation, and so it never even entered any of my thought process to put him on the Conservative ticket," Long said, citing the party backing for Lazio.
But he said he has no doubts that Lazio will poll the 50,000 votes needed to maintain the party's place on the ballot.
Long called Lorigo a "stalking horse" and hinted that Lorigo was in it because of his business dealings with Paladino.