NEW YORK – NEW YORK -- Conservative Party candidate Rick Lazio on Monday withdrew from the race for governor, a decision that helps the tea party candidate who beat Lazio in the Republican primary.
Lazio told The Associated Press that he wants to continue to influence the race and bring a workable job-creation program into a contest he says has devolved into name-calling between Republican Carl Paladino and Democrat Andrew Cuomo.
Polls show Paladino rising against the once seemingly unassailable Cuomo, but the latest survey showed Lazio taking 8 percent of voters, most of whom would likely vote for Paladino and cut into Cuomo's lead, said Marist College pollster Lee Miringoff.
Told of Lazio's decision, Paladino told the AP: "We're happy about that. I think Rick Lazio and I ran a primary that was above the garbage and the trash. We addressed issues."
The Cuomo campaign declined to comment.
The Conservative Party line has been crucial for Republicans who hope to attract Democratic and independent voters.
No Republican in New York has won statewide office since 1974 without Conservative Party support and a candidate running only on the Conservative line hasn't won statewide since 1970, when James Buckley won a U.S. Senate seat.
Lazio, a former congressman, picked up the Conservative Party ballot line in May and had until Tuesday to make a decision about whether to stay in the race. The party can select a substitute, and party Chairman Michael Long said the party will conduct a nominating convention Wednesday. He said it's "very likely" that Paladino would be the pick, but that others could be nominated.
The party's candidate for governor must get 50,000 votes to maintain its automatic ballot line for the next four years and the influence that provides to political discourse in New York.
Long has said his goal isn't simply to be on the winning side in elections, but to continue a conservative voice in New York politics.
Lazio said he'll continue to watch the election.
"I believe strongly that Andrew Cuomo cannot bring change, but I remain unconvinced that Carl Paladino will bring the improvement that New York needs," he told the AP.
Lazio said that the race has "defaulted to a mania over anger" and that Cuomo is not directly engaging his opponent.
"I understand the anger, the primal scream, the frustration," Lazio said. "I want to see (Paladino and Cuomo) pull together to hold candidates accountable and have a real meaningful set of ideas."
Asked if Paladino is going to listen to him, Lazio said, "I think Carl Paladino has to listen to the people. ... He needs to be realistic and credible and specific about how he's going to solve these grave problems."
Lazio said he had no regrets about running and "would do it all over again," but laughed and added: "If I had the choice, I would have done it better."