Carl Paladino, the mega-millionaire rebel from Buffalo who wants to be governor, kicks off his petition drive today to force his way into a uno-a-uno primary against official Republican party candidate Rick Lazio. And he’s running on an all-Paisan Party ticket, he announced last night. In a sit-down with Capitol Tonight‘s Liz Benjamin, Paladino grudgingly gave up the name of his pick for lieutenant governor and it’s the goateed former Queens councilman Tom Ognibene, the Italian Stallion from Ridgewood.
Picking a fellow paisan is pure Paladino. Most gubernatorial wannabes look for some kind of ethnic balance in their ticket, however awkward the fit (Spitzer-Paterson; Cuomo-Duffy; Lazio-Edwards). Not Paladino, the straight-talking emailer who vows to clean up Albany with a baseball bat, not some wimpy whisk broom. (Did you know that Paladino means paladin in Italian?)
Like Paladino, Ognibene is another straight talker who doesn’t sweat the little niceties of politics, even when it gets him in trouble. Back in 2005, Ognibene did the politically unthinkable by mounting a primary challenge against Mike Bloomberg’s reelection. Even the threat had Team Bloomberg panicked. Political deputy Kevin Sheekey was dispatched to try and talk him out of it. The lure was a $12,000 a month job (Yes, it’s sad but true folks: The Obama White House is not the first to try and bribe a candidate out of a political race.)
Back then, Ognibene said nothing doing, told his story to the Voice (yes, this conservative’s a big fan). He went on to be a major pain in the ass to Bloomberg for several more weeks before the mayor’s henchmen managed to get him knocked off the ballot.
Last year, they were back on the same team when Ognibene ran against Elizabeth Crowley for the council. He took a respectable 41 percent.