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Will they or won’t they?

That is the premier political question in New York these days. Will
the New York Conservative Party, which holds the fourth line on the
Empire State ballot, give its U.S. Senate nomination to near-certain
Republican nominee Rudy Giuliani against likely Democratic nominee
Hillary Clinton?

The answer to this question could be pivotal to the outcome of what
has already become the showcase Senate race of 2000. Now in its 37th
year, the Conservative Party usually delivers 350,000 to 400,000 votes
to a Republican candidate it has also endorsed for statewide office, as
it did for Gov. George Pataki. In fact, liberal Sen. Jacob Javits in
1974 was the last Republican elected statewide in New York without the
Conservative line.

In New York, no fewer than six minor parties share the statewide
ballot with the Democrats and Republicans. Each can endorse a major
party nominee or field its own.

So what is the current relationship between Giuliani and the
Conservative Party?

For all his renown at reducing city taxes and dramatically slashing
crime by beefing up the city’s police force to nearly 40,000, Giuliani
also takes decidedly left-of-center positions on many issues that make
him anathema to some grass-roots conservatives. Once a self-styled “John
F. Kennedy Democrat” who admits to having voted for George McGovern in
1972, Giuliani supports gun-control laws, opposes prayer in school, and
is a strong advocate of the homosexual agenda.

Gay Freedom Marcher

He has marched in New York’s annual Gay Freedom Day Parade and in
1998 proposed granting homosexual couples the same legal benefits as
married couples — which put him into a public clash with New York’s
popular Roman Catholic archbishop, John Cardinal O’Connor.

Although Giuliani’s “tough love” welfare reform measures have cut New
York City’s relief rolls by more than half, he has nonetheless joined
with civil rights groups in a suit against the welfare bill passed by
Congress in 1997, charging that it violated the constitutional rights of
legal immigrants who would lose federal disability and food stamp
benefits because they are not citizens.

Giuliani enraged many fellow Republicans when — as a sitting
Republican mayor in 1994 — he endorsed then-Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo
over Republican Pataki.

In his three bids for City Hall since 1989, Giuliani has always also
had the ballot line of the 55-year-old Liberal Party — the Conservative
Party’s mirror opposite.

Nonetheless, so disliked is Hillary Clinton that a large number of
the Conservative Party’s 62 county chairmen and 372-member state
committee would still be willing to swallow Giuliani’s apostasies and
support him for U.S. senator if only he would change his stance on one
issue: partial-birth abortion. (In fact, New York Post columnist Bob
McManus said last week that 41 of the county chairmen want Giuliani even
if he doesn’t shift on partial-birth.)
Giuliani, like the First Enabler, shares Bill Clinton’s opposition to
the partial-birth abortion ban that Congress has twice passed and the
President has twice vetoed. Right now, the Conservative Party is
actively seeking to pass a similar ban in New York State and says it has
polls showing that 70 percent of the voters support such legislation.

But despite the Conservative pressure, so far Giuliani has not
budged. Several sources close to him say this is at least in part
because pro-abortion groups have signaled they would remain neutral in a
bout between the mayor and Mrs. Clinton if Giuliani remains 100 percent
pro-abortion.

Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long told me last week that the last
time he had a long conversation with Giuliani about the endorsement was
over dinner in March. “I told him we’d sure look at it,” said Long,
“but there must be no Liberal Party endorsement and he had to change on
partial-birth abortion.

“Since then, our only contact has been a minute-and-a-half telephone
conversation in August in which he said he was not pleased with us and
wanted to talk. I told him our normal procedure is for a candidate to
come to us and meet with our leaders. Since then, there has been no
contact — just spins in the newspaper.”

Most New York pols I have talked with believe it is almost a
certainty that Giuliani will again run on the Liberal Party line, as has
every winning Democratic candidate for governor since Averell Harriman
in 1958 and every Democrat presidential candidate who has carried New
York since John Kennedy two years later. They attribute this partly to
the mayor’s close personal friendship with Liberal Party Chairman Ray
Harding, who often accompanies Giuliani to New York Yankees games and
whose two sons work in the Giuliani administration.

Harding told Human Events that he and Giuliani were “very good
friends,” but that any Senate endorsement would be made by the party’s
40-member policy committee next spring. He added that he “has never met
Hillary Clinton.”

Asked whether any of her New York allies, such as former White House
Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes, have contacted him, Harding said, “I
have known Harold for many years and we’ve recently had a few
conversations on the phone.” Did Ickes lobby him to support a Hillary
candidacy? “I don’t care to discuss it,” he said.

Koch: It’s ‘Murder’

Despite the fact that no statewide candidate has ever run on both
the Liberal and Conservative lines, and despite Long’s stated distaste
for Giuliani’s carrying the Liberal endorsement, Conservative Party
leaders insist that it is not impossible that Giuliani could have their
banner as well — if he changes his position on partial-birth abortion.

“We’re fully committed to banning this awful procedure and no
candidate who supports it will carry our line,” Long said. “Look, in a
state assembly which has a big Democratic majority and where the speaker
(Sheldon Silver) supports partial-birth abortion, we came within two
votes of getting a ban passed. Gov. Pataki, who says he is
‘pro-choice,’ indicated he would sign the ban if it passed.

“(Former New York City Mayor) Ed Koch, a pro-choice Democrat, calls
partial-birth abortion ‘murder.’ (Retiring Democratic Sen.) Daniel
Patrick Moynihan, also pro-choice, studied the issue carefully and
changed to supporting a ban. He calls partial birth ‘infanticide.’ It
would not be that big of a reach for Mayor Giuliani to do the same.”

According to the Washington Times, Giuliani has shifted his opinion
on abortion before. “Earlier in his career,” reports the Times, “he
favored overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that
struck down state laws against abortion.”

Long added that if Giuliani continues to support partial-birth
abortion it would raise doubts among abortion opponents outside the
Conservative Party as well as in it — quite possibly enhancing the vote
total of the Right to Life Party candidate. “People would be wondering,
how would he vote on the confirmation of another Clarence Thomas or
Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court,” said Long. “They’d be asking if
he still supports taking the pro-life plank out of the Republican Party
platform, as he did in 1996.”

Three in Wings

Long revealed that there are “three other candidates who have
contacted me about becoming the Conservative Party nominee for the
Senate.” He would not reveal the names, but pointed out that they “were
all pro-life and could easily have the ballot line of the Right to Life
Party as well. And that would cause the mayor even more problems than
he now has by (favoring partial-birth abortion).”

If Giuliani truly wants the Conservative Party line in next year’s
Senate race, several New York activists tell Human Events, he might
begin by making overtures to Long and other party leaders. In their
bids for president, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Steve Forbes and, most
recently, George W. Bush all made the initial contact with the party
leaders — sitting down with them, discussing issues, and saying they
would like to carry the Conservative line if nominated by the GOP.
“Rudy Giuliani can be, and should be, senator of New York,” New York
Post columnist Steve Dunleavy wrote recently. “But he needs to pick up
the phone and speak to Mike Long.”

And while he’s at it, he might also call Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

©1999 Human Events

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