Giuliani’s Whirlwind Senate Campaign Cuts a Swath Through Republican and Conservative Parties

MAYOR RUDOLPH GIULIANI stood quietly on a platform at the Buffalo-Niagara Airport near the westernmost extremity of New York State, preparing to claim credit for an initiative hatched some 500 miles from City Hall, when Gov. George Pataki stepped to the microphone. He offered reporters the same queasy grin that always seems to preface an unsettling task that lies before him.

“There was a time when people thought that New York City was ungovernable,” Mr. Pataki said dutifully. But now, all was well in the city, thanks to his fellow Republican, Rudy Giuliani.

Strangely, no one had asked Mr. Pataki for his opinion of Mr. Giuliani; the Governor and Mayor were supposed to be talking about a new, low-cost air service to economically distressed Western New York. Nevertheless, the Governor felt obliged to offer up his sunny assessment to reporters from a region critical to the Mayor in his race for Senate against Hillary Rodham Clinton. And as luck would have it, a camera crew was filming footage for the Mayor’s future campaign commercials.

Mr. Pataki’s pro-Rudy bromides were designed to silence grumbling that he, as titular head of the State Republican Party, has allowed his troops to fall into severe and widespread disarray. New York’s Republicans are squabbling over who is to blame for Senator John McCain’s surging candidacy in New York; Mr. Pataki is feuding with Senate majority leader Joseph Bruno, a key upstate backer of the Mayor, and Representative Rick Lazio of Long Island has revived his threat to challenge Mr. Giuliani in a Republican Senate primary-prompting speculation that the Governor would rather not see the Mayor get promoted to the Senate.

So here was Mr. Pataki, offering a seemingly spontaneous gesture of loyalty to the Mayor. But if his facial muscles betrayed signs of gastrointestinal distress, it was for good reason. Because one of the leading causes of the chaos that has swept through the state Republican Party is none other than Mr. Giuliani himself.

In pursuit of his Senate ambitions, Mr. Giuliani has challenged the very premise of Republican rule in New York. He has made it clear that he cares little for the G.O.P.’s alliance with the small but powerful Conservative Party in New York. Indeed, he has been bludgeoning Conservative leaders with a ferocity he once reserved for City Council members, Board of Education bureaucrats and other downstate subspecies. The Republican Party’s statewide successes in recent years came about thanks to the Conservative Party’s support for candidates such as Mr. Pataki and, until his defeat in 1998, Alfonse D’Amato. But Mr. Giuliani owes nothing to the Conservative Party; indeed, the party ran a candidate against him in his first two mayoral campaigns. Mr. Giuliani’s loyalty is to the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party’s ideological opposite.

In this case, ideology may have less to do with the Mayor’s emnity than personal history. The Conservative Party establishment has been wary of, if not hostile to, him since he ran for Mayor in 1989. Conventional wisdom has it that a Republican cannot win a statewide race without the Conservative Party’s support.

But Mr. Giuliani is delighted to think he has made a career of challenging conventional wisdom. As a result, his fledgling Senate campaign has bitterly divided the Republican Party and threatens to shatter the alliance between the Republican and Conservative parties. Because of the chaos and recriminations within the state G.O.P., the Giuliani candidacy may even have dealt a mortal blow to Mr. Pataki’s Vice Presidential aspirations. If the Governor can’t keep his party in order, after all, he hardly looks like a strong, effective leader.

“Rudy is the hurricane that has destroyed the coastline of the state Republican Party,” said political consultant Hank Sheinkopf. “His actions have effectively neutered George Pataki as a leader. Pataki can’t control his Senate candidate. He can’t control his party’s subsidiary, the Conservative Party. And the partnership between the Governor and [Mr. Bruno], which determines all legislation enacted in the state, has effectively been destroyed by Rudy.”

BACK IN SEPTEMBER, it already was clear that Mr. Giuliani had driven a wedge between the state’s top Republicans. While he clearly was the best-known Republican considering a Senate campaign, some of the party’s leaders were not prepared to embrace him. In a move many took as retribution for the Mayor’s traitorous endorsement of former Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1994, Mr. Pataki was tacitly encouraging Mr. Lazio to run a primary against Mr. Giuliani. The Mayor promptly turned Mr. Bruno and the Republican Party’s state chairman, William Powers, against Mr. Lazio. Not long after, the Mayor snubbed another Pataki ally, Conservative Party chairman Michael Long. And most recently, he infuriated the Republican establishment by assailing their efforts to bump insurgent Presidential candidate John McCain from the ballot in New York.

Mr. Giuliani’s whirling machinations have had the effect of making the genial Mr. Pataki seem incapable of mastering the chaos spreading throughout his party. With a few shrewd tactical maneuvers, Mr. Giuliani has recast Mr. Pataki as an affable but harmless figure-the Colonel Blake of state Republican politics. Meanwhile,Mr. Bruno can’t get an audience with the Governor. Mr. Long is bellowing at Mr. Giuliani from behind the counter of the liquor store he owns in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. And Mr. Powers, a former Marine, is barking out commands to Republican troops across the state in a frantic effort to contain the spreading damage.

Hurricane Rudy, of course, has always left destruction and carnage in its wake. For one thing, its path is littered with the crushed and broken reputations of those who have crossed him. For another, the rise of Mr. Giuliani has permanently reconfigured the city’s political landscape, turning traditional liberal Democrats into political refugees and giving rise to a new politicalconstituency:Giuliani Democrats. By reducing the crime rate and blasting low-level offenders out of Manhattan and into dustier corners of the city, he has all but forced his would-be successors in the Democratic Party to reinvent themselves as reasonable and nice versions of himself: “Rudy without the rude,” in the words of City Council member Ken Fisher of Brooklyn.

The most recent indication of the chaos unleashed by Hurricane Rudy is the sudden re-emergence of Mr. Lazio. Mr. Pataki was supposed to have swatted away Mr. Lazio a few months ago, when he held a press conference to announce that the Mayor was his chosen candidate for Senate.

But at a Conservative Party convention in early February, the talk was of Mr. Giuliani’s increasingly tense relationship with the party’s state chairman, Mr. Long, and how a split between Republicans and Conservatives would ensure Mrs. Clinton’s victory. The suddenly mischievous Mr. Lazio was in attendance, glad-handing the Conservative Party leaders and activists. At one point, Mr. Long took Mr. Lazio aside and, in a private chat, suggested that he consider re-entering the Senate race. Mr. Lazio apparently liked what he heard.

Mr. Lazio is puzzled by Mr. Giuliani’s reckless disregard for the Republican-Conservative winning formula. “You have to go out there and make yourself available, answer questions and show the leadership the respect they deserve,” Mr. Lazio told The Observer . “Your attitude should not be, ‘Either support me or I’ll roll you.’ I think the schism is exacerbated by his lack of communication. He could have done what I did: talk to these folks, or at least ask for an opportunity to address them. It means you need to be a little humble.”

Instead of humbling himself before Mr. Long, Mr. Giuliani has treated the Conservative power broker with the same divide-and-conquer tactics he has used against state Republicans. His aides have tried to foment a civil war within the Conservative Party by encouraging a pro-Giuliani faction within the small but powerful organization. And not long ago, when Mr. Giuliani was asked about his feud with Mr. Long, he replied, almost over his shoulder, that he didn’t really need endorsements. Through sheer force of personality and accomplishment, he would win over Conservative voters-with or without Mr. Long’s support.

In other words, Mr. Giuliani would rather smash the unity of the Conservative Party than genuflect before the likes of Mr. Long, who ran Ron Lauder against him in the 1989 mayoral election and George Marlinagainst him in the 1993 election. (Mr. Long left his party line blank in 1997, when it was clear Mr. Giuliani would win a smashing re-election.) Some party members deeply resent Mr. Giuliani’s tactics. A leaflet circulated at the Conservative Party convention summed up the opinions of some Conservative activists. “Rudy-the better you know him, the less you like him,” read the pamphlet, which was distributed to every table at the event. “Rudy Giuliani is a humorless bully and a vindictive thug-a snarling, vicious beast who gets his greatest pleasure from plotting waystoripoutthe throat of anyone whodisagreeswith him.” The pamphlet provoked barely a murmur of dissent.

On the other hand, Mr. Giuliani, like an operative for the Central Intelligence Agency, is encouraging dissent from within. Earlier this year, when Mr. Long told The Observer that the Mayor was “childish” and “silly” for failing to call him, photocopies of upstate newspaper clippings arrived at The Observer ‘s office from pro-Giuliani party members outside the city.

“As far as we are concerned, Mr. Long can take a long walk off a short pier,” wrote Al Bachman, a Conservative Party member from Mrs. Clinton’s new hometown of Chappaqua, N.Y. “We do not follow anyone (like Mr. Long) blindly.”

“The traditional alliance has been, and remains, Republican-Conservative,” said Gerald Kassar, the chairman of the Conservative Party in Brooklyn. “I really wish the Mayor would stop spending so much time trying to destroy it.”

Aides to Mr. Giuliani defend his take-no-prisoners approach to statewide politics. It may bruise allies and cost him the occasional supporter, they argue, but in the end, it reinforces his image as a brave and lonely reformer ever prepared to take a wrecking ball to any political institution in his path.

“It’s his fierce independence that most recommends him,” one aide noted. “In some corners he may violate party orthodoxy, but it undergirds his appeal and strength in the fall campaign. He is McCain-like. They’re both straight-talking leaders who have appeal because they break through conventions.”

That said, even Mr. Giuliani’s closest supporters concede that his volatile and unpredictable streak sometimes catches them off guard. “After all the advice and counsel, he follows his own gut,” the aide said. And one top supporter of the Mayor, trying to fathom Mr. Giuliani’s treatment of Mr. Long, said: “The answer to that is in the candidate’s head.”

Nevertheless, an early damage tally shows that Mr. Giuliani is exposing his candidacy to needless risks, particularly given that this race is expected to leave little room for error. Mr. Giuliani needs all the help he can get, but his disregard for supposedly sacrosanct rules of state politics has made an increasing number of Republicans wary of his true motives and intentions.

“I think that no one expects Rudy to run the typical Republican state party campaign,” said Assembly member Phil Boyle of Bay Shore, L.I. “However, he seems to be a little too far off the reservation. People in the state party who backed Rudy must be very nervous about now. He could turn around and say, ‘Screw you guys, I’m taking my $10 million and running for Governor.’”

Case in point: Mr. Giuliani’s rather unorthodox fashion of announcing that, yes, he’s running after all. In the summer, Mr. Powers, the state Republican chairman, made it known that he would like Mr. Giuliani to declare his candidacy by Aug. 31. Weeks passed, then months. Recently, Mr. Giuliani gave a strange reason for his silence: He’s superstitious about announcements. After all, the last time he declared his candidacy, when he ran for Mayor for the first time in 1989, he lost.

Finally, in early February,Mr.Giulianiwas asked yet again if he was in the race. His answer: “Am I an official candidate? I don’t know what an official candidate is. I am very interested in running. Look [at] what I’m doing. I’m not walking. Last night in Buffalo, they said to me, ‘Are you running?’ I said, ‘I’m not walking.’ I mean, give me a break. I’m not walking.”

MEANWHILE, REPUBLICANS ACROSS THE STATE are increasingly restive about the Mayor’s disregard for the Republican-Conservative alliance.

“I don’t understand it,” said Kieran Mahoney, a Republican consultant who has worked closely with Mr. Pataki, Mr. D’Amato and other state Republicans. “He has not been frank as to what his motives are, and I don’t have a crystal ball to peer into that space. He is lessening his chances. When I work for a campaign, I try to increase the chances of victory. This could clearly cost him six figures of votes.”

The gaping rift between Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Long could also roil the landscape for many Republican legislators across the state. They might be loath to pitch aggressively for the Mayor, lest they alienate their constituents on the right, upon whom they depend for re-election. “He’s taking very liberal positions that could cause problems in the fall for state senators and assemblymen that are running,” said Representative Peter King of Long Island. “He definitely looks to be running to the left of the party.”

Many observers believe that the Mayor’s recent lurches to the right-he fought to withhold funds for the Brooklyn Museum of Art and came out in support of posting the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms-are calculated to shore up his right wing at a time when he risks losing Mr. Long. Yet a more subtle calculation may be at play. Indeed, there may be a method in Mr. Giuliani’s assault on the state’s Conservative Party establishment. In this regard, Mr. Giuliani resembles no politician more than the husband of his opponent: Bill Clinton.

Mr. Clinton took power in 1992 by waging war on the left wing of his own party, casting himself as a New Democrat and mouthing platitudes invented by Ronald Reagan. He spread havoc through his party, costing them control of Congress in 1994.

Now Mr. Giuliani is doing a triangulation dance of his own. By drawing attacks from his party’s conservative wing, he is deflecting Mrs. Clinton’s efforts to paint him as a Newt Gingrich Republican. Just as Mr. Clinton’s victory damaged his party, Mr. Giuliani may end up as the ruler of a party left in shambles by his ambitions.

In the end, of course, such an outcome might not prove all that surprising. “[Mr. Giuliani] happens to use the Republican Party as a banner to run with, but he’s really a Republican for convenience,” Mr. King said. “He’s Giuliani, and he uses the Republican Party to advance Giuliani.”

Additional reporting by Tish Durkin.