It could be that Buffalo’s Carl Paladino is once again grabbing his baseball bat – the one he toted around New York State in his 2010 campaign for governor – for 2014.
There is serious talk in some Conservative Party circles about another gubernatorial candidacy for the Buffalo real estate developer, and Paladino is doing nothing to discourage it.
“I haven’t said anything,” he told the Politics Column last week.
But not saying anything, in this case, also means something.
The idea’s champion is Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph Lorigo, who informally mentioned it to practically everyone he could buttonhole at the June 25 state party dinner in New York.
“Each person I talked to was receptive to it,” the chairman said.
Paladino’s 2010 candidacy is generally viewed as one of the more bizarre in state political history. It ended in a good, old-fashioned rout at the hands of Democrat Andrew Cuomo.
The Republican candidate managed to offend all kinds of people, engaged in shouting matches with reporters and was dubbed “Crazy Carl” by the New York City tabloids.
Still, “Crazy Carl” won a super-lopsided victory over establishment type Rick Lazio in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary. He won the Erie County primary by an incredible 94 percent to 6 percent tally.
And he especially connected locally in the general election, winning the nine western counties in a sign that many in this part of the world feel ignored by Albany.
And though Paladino said he would never again run for public office, he has already broken that vow by running for – and winning – a seat on the Buffalo Board of Education.
The Conservative Party, meanwhile, pretty much owes its existence to Paladino.
That’s because Lorigo led complex ballot machinations in 2010 that resulted in the Conservative nod for Paladino after the party’s endorsed candidate – Lazio – got clobbered in the primary. Even those Conservatives who never joined the Paladino fan club realized the party might be headed toward oblivion with Lazio on the ticket.
Not only did Paladino gain the required 50,000 votes to qualify the party for the ballot for the next four years, he surpassed all other minor parties to re-establish the Conservatives on the crucial third line. Now Conservatives and Republican allies again see the potential for securing the third line – and maybe better.
“Our salvation certainly would be ensured,” Lorigo said.
“It would probably put the Conservative Party second,” added Paladino, in a sign that he is clearly intrigued by the idea.
And vaulting the Conservatives onto the second line is not as crazy as “Crazy Carl” thinks. Conservative Herb London almost pulled it off in 1990 against the much maligned Republican – Pierre Rinfret.
None of this would fare well with the Republicans, of course. They have enough trouble winning statewide elections without splitting the opposition against Cuomo in an overwhelmingly Democratic state. So they must look to a candidate acceptable to the Conservative Party – which might be behind all the Paladino chatter anyway.
“If the Republicans have a strong candidate, we’ll join in,” Lorigo said. “As of today, I don’t see that as the case.”
There are some Republicans sniffing around the campaign trail for governor. Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin of Troy has expressed interest. Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino is often mentioned, and, in fact, will be in Buffalo this week to meet with potential supporters.
But state GOP Chairman Ed Cox and company must keep the Paladino Factor in mind. They must either field a Republican candidate acceptable to the tiny but influential Conservatives, or face the specter of Paladino emerging as a super spoiler.
It’s all very hazy at this point – but interesting to contemplate on a lazy, hazy, crazy Sunday in July.