Former Gov. George Pataki on Monday formally endorsed the Republican nominee for New York’s governor, Tea Party backed Carl Paladino.
The endorsement comes just months after Paladino called Pataki "a degenerate idiot." Nevertheless, Paladino accepted the 11th hour endorsement, which is perhaps the most mainstream vote of confidence for Paladino yet. Paladino has repeatedly said he wasn't looking for endorsements during his campaign.
While I don't agree with my party's nominee for Governor on any number of issues, we do agree on three essential Republican - Conservative core beliefs: the need to cut taxes, reduce spending and shrink the size of government," Pataki wrote in an endorsement emailed this afternoon. "It is with these bedrock beliefs in mind that today I endorse Carl Paladino for Governor."
"I am humbled to be endorsed by the last real Governor of New York State," Paladino said. "And I stand strong with Gov. Pataki to lead this revolution to take back our State."
On Sunday, Democratic candidate Andrew Cuomo dismissed polls showing him with a wide lead, warning of an uncertain political environment for Democrats going into the midterm elections.
Cuomo's Republican rival, Carl Paladino, told supporters that corruption among state officeholders had made New York a "laughing stock" and said Cuomo was incapable of changing such an ingrained culture.
Both candidates campaigned in the New York City area Sunday in the final weekend before Tuesday's vote. Their efforts came as a newly released Siena Research Institute poll found Cuomo leading Paladino among likely voters by a 25-point margin, 58-33 percent. It's one of several recent independent polls showing Cuomo heading to an apparent easy win.
Speaking to reporters, Cuomo said it would be a mistake to believe any polls suggesting he would cruise to victory. As if to further downplay expectations, Cuomo also dismissed the notion he would need a landslide victory to be effective as governor.
"I don't believe the mandate is determined by the percentage of votes," Cuomo said. "I don't know that the vote totals mean that much. It's about coming up with a plan and then getting it done."
For his part, Paladino also shrugged off the polls and instead pounced on Cuomo's investigation of former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi.
Hevesi, a Democrat, pleaded guilty in early October to steering millions in investments into the $126 billion state pension fund to politically connected allies in exchange for favors. Cuomo, as state attorney general, helped deliver the guilty plea but told reporters Saturday he is still weighing whether to request jail time for Hevesi.
Paladino has accused Cuomo of cutting a deal with Hevesi to plead guilty in exchange for no jail time. Paladino said Cuomo's latest comments show he "will not make the change" Albany needs.
"It's not just Hevesi," Paladino said. "When it comes to official corruption, New York is the laughing stock of this nation."
Paladino campaigned on Long Island, seeking to energize a still sizable Republican voter block there. But the Siena Poll found Cuomo leading Paladino by 54-46 percent in the New York suburbs, which include Long Island.
Earlier, Paladino appeared at a rally in suburban Westchester County with former Republican Gov. George Pataki. Pataki has not yet endorsed Paladino, who apologized to Pataki in September after he was quoted calling the former governor "a degenerate idiot."
Cuomo told reporters Sunday he was "officially neutral" in the race for comptroller, where Democrat Tom DiNapoli, a former state lawmaker and ally of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver appointed to the post after Hevesi stepped down, faces a strong challenge from Republican hedge fund executive Harry Wilson. But at a rally, Cuomo urged voters to support Democrats across the ballot, including DiNapoli.
A Cuomo campaign spokesman told reporters this weekend that Cuomo doesn't plan to release his income tax returns, a tradition in Albany for all statewide officials, before the election.
Cuomo released a summary of some aspects of his taxes on April 15 and promised to make the complete income tax forms available later on. But campaign spokesman Josh Vlasto said Saturday Cuomo has no plans to release them before Tuesday.
Vlasto noted Paladino hasn't released his taxes, although most candidates don't until they are in public office.