By Samantha Cook
“I feel very comfortable about where we are,” Rick Lazio told voters during a meet and greet session at New York Penn Station just hours before upstart Carl Paladino destroyed him in the Republican gubernatorial primary, winning 64 percent of the vote compared to Lazio’s 36 percent.
Lazio was once the golden boy of state Republican politics. The four-term congressman was nominated by the party to run against Hilary Clinton in 2000. Establishment Republicans were impressed by him enough to designate him as their candidate for governor. Shockingly, last night he was crushed by an unknown, upstate business man who threatened to take care of the gridlock in Albany with a baseball bat.
How did this happen?
Some attendees that gathered at the Women’s National Republican Club to prepare for what they thought would be a Lazio victory party conceded that mistakes had been made.
“I think Lazio should have debated,” said Saul Farber, a Republican state senator of the Eastside of Manhattan. “He didn’t debate him, which I think lost him in the polls.” Frances Scanlon, an attorney, added that the main problem was that Lazio should have acted as though Paladino was a legitimate threat, instead of ignoring him.
Other attendees had their own theories on why Lazio was unable to garner a strong lead over Paladino.
Bryan Cooper, a teacher and Republican leader of New York County who had been a Lazio volunteer for 17 months, said the main problem was that Lazio didn’t campaign enough upstate where Paladino support was strongest.
“Rick should be staying upstate more and taking [Paladino’s] territory,” Cooper said.
Cooper added that there was some effort by the campaign to pull votes from counties like Erie, Buffalo, Saratoga, and Niagara, but that there needed to be more.
However, many of the Lazio supporters seemed confused by the news that Paladino had a chance to win the primary.
“I am surprised,” said Lazio supporter Robin Weaver, who works at a financial firm, when she found out how close the race was. “I am really upset about that.”
Imagine how they feel now.