New York: Not A Senor Moment For The Republican Party

I was thinking of putting together a list of everyone who decided against running for the Senate this year against Democratic incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand, but I'm afraid I would run out of bandwidth.

The latest to float his name, only to ultimately say he wouldn't run, is Dan Senor, a Utica native who was a Iraq war spokesman when working in the Bush Defense Department. In a statement that sounds eerily familiar to anyone watching the New York Senate race this year, Senor said, "Over the past few weeks, I took a very serious look at running for the Senate seat in New York. I ultimately decided this wasn't the right time in my family and business life for me to run."

It's the latest blow to a Republican Party that insists it has a vulnerable target in Gillibrand, appointed to fill the seat of now-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A Senor candidacy had been talked up by associates for former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, himself a once-touted Senate hopeful, as well as New York state GOP chair Ed Cox. The New York Post's Maggie Haberman notes, "The party is under pressure, in a weak Democratic year where independents are trending toward Republicans, to come up with strong challengers, but in many cases it is struggling."

The list of GOP candidates is now down to former Rep. Joe DioGuardi, ex-Long Island legislator Bruce Blakeman and economist David Malpass.

Family Ties: Senor is married to CNN's Campbell Brown ... DioGuardi's daughter is American Idol panelist Kara DioGuardi ... Cox is the son-in-law of Richard Nixon.

Oh, also, Hillary Clinton is married to a former governor of Arkansas.

Things are not much clearer for the Empire State GOP on the gubernatorial race. I've spent a lot of time talking about Gov. David Paterson's (D) troubles, and musing over whether Richard Ravitch, the appointed lt. gov., will become governor before Andrew Cuomo. But Republicans are not having fun either. Their once all-but-assured nominee, former Rep. Rick Lazio, won the coveted Conservative Party line last weekend. But he has money woes and there is a palpable lack of enthusiasm for his candidacy. Last week Steve Levy, the Suffolk County (Long Island) Executive, quit the Democratic Party to become a Republican candidate for governor, and has picked up the backing of GOP chair Cox. Levy is a conservative, a hardliner on illegal immigration, with about $4.5 million cash on hand. He won re-election in 2007 without opposition. But he also used to be a supporter of President Obama and Eliot Spitzer, a fact that Lazio is not shy about reminding fellow Republicans.

Meanwhile, Levy seems to also be getting into a spat with George Pataki, the state's last GOP governor (1995-2006). Pataki has long been a Lazio supporter, and was his biggest booster during Lazio's 2000 Senate run against Hillary Clinton. The Daily News' Elizabeth Benjamin reports that Pataki has "reservations" about Levy's record on taxes and immigration and questions "the wisdom of his party's rush to embrace the turncoat Dem." Levy, in turn, called the former three-term governor "too politically expedient" who "alienated not only the Republican base, but the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers who favor legal immigration but strongly oppose illegal immigration."

Another hopeful, Carl Paladino, is expected to officially announce in a couple of weeks. Paladino is a wealthy Buffalo developer who says he will spend $10 million out of his own pocket on the race, and hints that if he doesn't win the GOP nomination, he will form a Tea Party-like independent effort for November.

Current Rating: Democrats favored in both contests.

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