New York Conservative Party Leader Flip Flops, Urges Members To Back Carl Paladino

Sep 28, 2010 6:31pm

ABC News’ Michael Falcone reports:

Less than two weeks after calling New York GOP gubernatorial hopeful, Carl Paladino, “more of a caricature than a candidate,” the head of the state’s Conservative Party is now urging his members to endorse the Republican contender.

There was no love lost between Paladino, who scored an upset victory over Rick Lazio in the GOP governor’s primary, and the Conservative Party, which endorsed Lazio. Throughout the primary Paladino and party leaders traded fire, and Paladino said it was a “sad day” for the party when its members decided to back Lazio earlier in the race.

“Some of Paladino’s people said some harsh things about the Conservative Party,” Mike Long, chairman of the conservatives, said in an interview with ABC News. “Some of our people are a little uptight about that.”

But, Long added, “as chairman of the party, I don’t have the option of being uptight.”

Long said he will try to convince the party’s 300 state committee members to get behind Paladino when they meet in Albany on Wednesday afternoon, but he said he’s been hearing “mixed views” from party activists when it comes to Paladino, an eccentric and controversial millionaire real estate developer.

The Conservative Party’s backing would be a significant boost to Paladino, who was believed to be the underdog heading into the general election, but whose campaign against Democratic state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo appears to be picking up steam.

The conservatives have another reason to get behind Paladino. In New York candidates can be listed on multiple ballot lines if they receive the endorsement of a qualified political party. The Conservative Party will need 50,000 votes in the general election in order to remain “qualified” under the state’s election laws.

Though Paladino may get the Conservative Party’s endorsement on Wednesday, he has yet to receive the support of Lazio, who has continued to criticize his former rival.

In an interview on a New York radio program on Tuesday Lazio said that as candidates both Paladino and Cuomo left “a lot to be desired,” adding: “I believe the Republican Party has a lot of soul searching to do here.”

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