Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy made it official today -– he’s switching from the Democratic Party to become a Republican and run for governor.
Levy, the Suffolk County Executive from Eastern Long Island, used the State Capitol as a backdrop when he signed papers officially changing his political affiliation from Democrat to Republican, then launched his campaign for the Republican nomination for governor, saying his candidacy will be a "game changer." Levy says his record as a sound fiscal manager can translate to fixing New York’s government, which he says suffers from an “alarming lack of leadership,” is at the “brink of fiscal insolvency,” and has become a national joke.
“It was politics as usual that got us into this financial quagmire,” Levy said. “It was politics as usual that has made New York State an easy punch line on late night talk shows.”
Levy was a member of the Assembly Democratic conference for several years, though he says he was always a “contrarian” there. He says that unlike most Albany politicians, he’s not beholden to special interests, and has cut spending and wrung concessions from public worker unions. And he says he’s the only candidate, so far, with a detailed plan to solve the state’s fiscal crisis.
“I’m putting forth this plan knowing darn well that there are some special interest groups that, at the get go, aren’t going to like it,” said Levy, thumping his fist on the podium for emphasis. “So be it.”
Levy was joined by seven of the nine GOP Regional Chairs, and welcomed by the State Party Chair, Ed Cox.
“I believe in competition,” said Cox.
Until Levy joined the race, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for governor was Rick Lazio. Lazio, a former congressman who is mostly known for running an unsuccessful Senate campaign against Hillary Clinton in 2000, had not caught fire with many Republicans, or the public, and has had trouble raising money.
Levy has over $4 million on hand, and won the race for Suffolk County Executive last time with 96% of the vote on both major party lines.
Lazio says he remains “confident” he will eventually be the nominee for the Republican and Conservative Party lines, though the state’s Conservative Party put a scheduled Saturday endorsement vote on hold, saying they’d like to give Levy a chance to make his case.
Lazio’s campaign immediately released a list of reasons why Republicans should not back Levy, including that he was a supporter of Barack Obama, and the federal stimulus bailout, and voted for tax increases as a Democratic member of the Assembly. The Lazio campaign even released a transcript of a wiretap for a bribery case that showed Levy using crass language. Levy had no connection to any of the crimes that were committed.
Levy calls the charges “same old, same old” and says he believes the public will judge him on his record of fiscal responsibility.
“You can do all the spinning you want, but the record speaks for itself,” said Levy.
The elephant in the room, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, was not mentioned by name. Cuomo is the state’s most popular politician, and has $16 million in the bank. He’s expected to announce his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for governor soon, and party leaders have said they’ll support him.
Levy’s former Democratic colleagues have already begun denouncing him. Democratic State Party Chair Jay Jacobs called Levy’s decision to switch parties “political opportunism."
Levy took no direct shots at Cuomo or Lazio, saying he was not there to bash other candidates, but talk about his own ideas.