Rick Lazio Checks In

ALBANY—Rick Lazio said he doesn’t see himself as a third-party candidate for governor.

“I haven’t really considered that point, because I don’t think I’ll ever get there. I’m really confident we’ll have the Republican nomination and the Conservative nomination,” Lazio told me by phone this afternoon. He’s taking all the attention he can get.

I asked whether he would consider the possibility–he today announced the endorsement of Tom Long, the Queens County Conservative Party chairman and the brother Mike Long, the statewide party boss–in light of a special election in the 23rd Congressional district, where a surging Conservative candidate forced Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava from the race.

This is the second Conservative county chairman to endorse Lazio, who has courted Mike Long and his endorsement. (No Republican has won statewide office without the Conservative Party’s backing.) But he doesn’t see himself as a Scozzafava.

“First of all, I have been endorsed by all of my seven prior races by both the Republican and Conservative parties, and I think on particularly economic issues, the Conservative Party has found my positions on taxes, on balanced budgets, on fiscal discipline, on job creation, to be in line with their core beliefs. So I’m very confident that this is a very different race than New York 23,” Lazio said.

He also weighed in on two of the big Capitol issues of the day: the budget deficit deal, in which he again attacked Andrew Cuomo, and same-sex marriage.

Lazio said he favors civil unions and would not support the current bill. I asked him if he would veto it if he were governor.

“I’m not going to speculate on that,” he said.

Lazio said the situation with the deficit was “sadly, not unexpected” and an “embarrassment.” He said Andrew Cuomo–who today announced a crackdown on Internet sex offenders–is not helping. (Cuomo has never admitted that he is running for governor; he has said repeatedly his only plan “at this time” is to run for re-election as attorney general.)

“The other tragedy is you have the attorney general Andrew Cuomo out there, who continues to hide in the shadows dropping dimes on David Paterson at a time when we need leadership. He’s got his folks–his agents–making calls undermining David Paterson,” Lazio said. “The state is collapsing. I have no objection to him talking about sex offenders, but he’s looking for the political issues that are convenient for him personally. The state needs real leadership, even if he’s got to hurt somebody’s feelings by coming out for something. If he’s a leader, he needs to start acting like a leader.”