Buffalo real estate developer Carl Paladino is making it clear that this is going to be a three-way Republican gubernatorial primary, with Paladino going up against Republican Rick Lazio and Democrat-turned-Republican Steve Levy.
But no Republican really has a shot of winning statewide office without the support of–and ballot from–the Conservative Party. That group is meeting tomorrow and may make an endorsement. The leading candidate to get the Conservative line is Lazio, who has the backing of Conservative State Party Chairman Mike Long. Republicans leaders are backing Levy, but Long doesn’t approve of that.
Paladino’s campaign manager, Michael Caputo, told me his candidate is the only true fiscal–and social–conservative in the race. If Conservatives back Lazio, Paladino’s aide said they’ll have no choice but to petition to create the Tea Party ballot line.
“Let’s face it, if the Conservative Party endorsed Lazio, we really don’t have a choice,” he said, “other than to create a Tea Party line.”
“Because, historically, Republican gubernatorial candidates have not been elected without the Conservative Party endorsement. But in order to change history, we have to form a whole different option.”