"He has a good vision for the future of New York. He knows the state well and he brings a fresh approach to Albany, having not been in Albany," Pataki said in an interview before Wednesday's announcement. "After this just really horrible period of time for the people of the state of New York, we need that fresh vision, that new leadership, and the energy and ideas that Rick will bring to the governor's office."
After Pataki chose not to seek a fourth term, Democrats led by Eliot Spitzer took control of the power bases in Albany, now including both chambers of the Legislature.
Since that 2006 election, Spitzer and Democratic Comptroller Alan Hevesi resigned in scandal, and Democratic Gov. David Paterson decided not to seek election to a full term and is under investigation. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who is investigating Paterson, is expected to bid for the Democratic nomination, although a poll Tuesday showed his approval rating slipping.
"This is yet another indication that Rick Lazio represents the Republican values that people need to return to in order to sweep clean the dysfunction in Albany,'' said Lazio spokesman Barney Keller.
Lazio also was endorsed by Rep. Peter King of Long Island, a top New York Republican.
"Rick has the right message at the right time," King said.
"People have had enough of government that overtaxes, overspends and overreaches ... I am confident that this message and this candidate will carry us to victory in November and we will return sanity, responsibility and integrity to Albany."
The endorsements come a day after conservative Democrat Steve Levy, the Suffolk County executive, met with some Republican leaders as he considers seeking the GOP endorsement for governor.
He won his latest election with the Democratic, Republican and Conservative parties lines, among others.
But Pataki's endorsement could be a significant boost to Lazio, who trails Levy in campaign cash.
"George Pataki, being out of office four years, really appeals to voters of all political stripes at the moment," said Steven Greenberg of the Siena College poll.
The January poll found 56 percent of voters had a favorable view of Pataki, including 62 percent of Republicans, 53 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of independents.
"I'll be glad to help him in any way I can, whether with ideas, experience or other ways," said Pataki, who won three terms despite the state's Democratic enrollment advantage. He wouldn't comment on reports he is considering a run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
Levy had no comment on the endorsements.
A Marist College poll Tuesday showed a rare slip for Cuomo, who still has higher poll numbers and more campaign cash than Lazio or Levy.
Cuomo's approval rating was 54 percent _ down 13 points in two weeks as he investigated two scandals involving Paterson, his one-time political rival.
Marist College pollster Lee Miringoff called it a major change and showed Cuomo was now associated with the scandals as he investigates whether the Paterson administration illegally contacted a woman who had accused one of his aides of domestic violence. Paterson has also been accused of illegally obtaining free World Series tickets at Yankee Stadium.
Polls show most voters would prefer an independent prosecutor on the cases instead of Cuomo.