Fifteen Chairs Ask Collins to Get In the Game, Collins Camp Says

ALBANY—After a good week for Rick Lazio before Christmas–when he mopped up the endorsements of several county chairs as well as Rudy Giuliani–fifteen Republican county chairmen have signed a letter asking Erie County Executive Chris Collins to run for governor.

“We recognize that the time for bold and committed leadership is now. That is why we are asking you to run for Governor of New York as the Republican nominee in 2010,” the chairs wrote. “In the last two years, you have proven that running government on business principles works. At one time Erie County was plagued by deficits and diminishing services while being under the oversight of a control board. In two short years, you have created a culture where services are being provided efficiently, surpluses are the norm and the control board no longer oversees the day-to-day county finances.”

This is not a formal endorsement; it can’t be, because while Collins is moving around like a candidate he has not formally declared. One strategist described as a measure to “stop the bleeding” as Lazio gained support, and back stop should Collins make an announcement in the future. (His political committee sent out the letter.) After Lazio was endorsed by Giuliani, Collins made calls to various county chairs asking them to hold off on endorsing Lazio. Collins and his closest surrogates reacted cattily in public.

A full list of all 15 chairs is below. I reached Jim Ellis, one of the regional vice chairs of the party, to explain the thinking behind the letter.

“Chris Collins is the kind of guy we’re looking for. I’m not saying he is the guy, but he’s the kind of guy,” Ellis said. “We need some new leadership in New York State–the kind of leadership that gets into the trenches, and says that we’re going to help people, but we don’t need a Cadillac when a Chevrolet will do.”

“None of us are turning our back on Rick Lazio,” Ellis continued. “What we’re saying is that the more choices there are the more chances we’ll have to turn this ship wreck of a state around.”

Rep Chair Letter