Pataki bowing out after three terms as N.Y. governor
ALBANY, N.Y. – Republican George Pataki, who brought down Democratic icon Mario Cuomo in 1994 to become governor of New York, said Wednesday he will not seek a fourth term next year and “come 2007, I will follow a new path, find new challenges.”While Pataki is eyeing a possible run for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, he told The Associated Press “that’s for down the road. I’m not ruling anything in or out.”Later, the nation’s longest currently serving governor told several hundred cheering supporters and state employees at the Capitol that he will call it quits after three terms.Pataki said he was pleased with the state of the state.”We’ve done a lot together, and yet there is always more to do,” he said.Recent polls in New York showed Pataki trailing state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, in a possible 2006 gubernatorial matchup. The governor’s approval rating slipped to an all-time low among New York voters earlier this year.Democrats were quick to claim that Pataki was getting out while he could, and some Republicans shared that feeling.”We should all be clear about this – if he thought he could be re-elected, he’d run again,” said Howard Wolfson, a strategist for the state Democratic Party.”George Pataki both defeated Mario Cuomo and learned from Mario Cuomo,” added Republican strategist Nelson Warfield. “Cuomo left office seeking a fourth term and went out a loser. Now George Pataki will retire from state politics undefeated.”Pataki said he simply felt it was the “right time” to step aside.”We’ve been through very tough times since 2001,” he told the AP, referring to the terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center towers and killed nearly 3,000 people. “And now I can look at the future of the state with the confidence that you should have.”Pataki meet with top financial supporters, who could bankroll a presidential bid, Wednesday night in New York City. Among the dozens of attendees was state Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long, who said Pataki told him he would not leave politics.”He may take a look around on the national level,” Long said. “He may poke around a little bit, and if that’s what he decides to do, that’s fine.”Pataki loyalists have talked up his chances of winning the presidency, but Warfield said the governor’s liberal bent on social issues – he supports abortion and gay rights – would not sell in the heartland.”I think he has very limited appeal as a national candidate, as a Republican,” said Warfield, a top aide to Bob Dole during Dole’s unsuccessful 1996 presidential run.Nonetheless, House Speaker Dennis Hastert called Pataki “a true public servant,” and said he “has a bright future in the Republican Party.”Pataki has been pressured by some Republicans and others to announce his intentions. Now that he’s bowed out, the party can turn its attention to competing against the high-profile Spitzer, known for his aggressive investigations of financial wrongdoing.Aides to Rudolph Giuliani have said the former New York City mayor is too busy with private business interests to run for governor. Current Mayor Michael Bloomberg said earlier this week he has no interest.Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, who moved back to his native New York five years ago, has said he would seriously look at running if Pataki bowed out.