NEW YORK – Billionaire third-party candidate B. Thomas Golisano said Sunday he was staying in New York's race for governor, ending days of speculation that he might quit and endorse Democratic challenger H. Carl McCall.
Golisano made his announcement during a paid, two-minute address broadcast Sunday night. "A vote for me is not wasted. I have been and still am a candidate for governor,'' he said.
Speculation about Golisano's intentions began on Thursday when his campaign began cutting back TV advertising. Since then, his campaign had been sending mixed signals. The businessman ordered his pollster, John Zogby, on Saturday to begin checking on how the race might change if he pulled out and researched the legality of endorsing McCall.
Immediately after his taped message, Golisano appeared before about two dozen supporters at his Rochester headquarters. He said McCall had asked him several days ago for his support.
"I thought about it for quite awhile,'' Golisano said. The billionaire said McCall is "part of the system ... and we need to change it.''
Recent polls have shown incumbent Gov. George Pataki with double-digits leads over McCall, the state comptroller, with Golisano trailing in third place.
"This was a publicity stunt from a failing campaign,'' said McCall spokesman Steven Greenberg. "Carl McCall is the clear choice to beat George Pataki.''
Pataki aides had maintained they didn't care what Golisano did. Pataki spokesman Michael McKeon said if Golisano quit the race, more of his support might go to McCall, but a good chunk would also go to Pataki.
"Tom Golisano's strange campaign is ending on a stranger note,'' said Pataki campaign manager Adam Stoll. "New Yorkers know and trust Governor Pataki's experienced leadership and will overwhelmingly re-elect him on Tuesday.''
A poll from the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion released on Wednesday had Pataki leading McCall, 47 percent to 27 percent, with Golisano at 17 percent. With Golisano out of the race, Pataki led McCall, 54 percent to 33 percent, according to the Marist pollsters.
Golisano is making his third run for governor as the candidate of the Independence Party. As of Oct. 25, he had spent more than $54 million on his self-financed campaign.