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Rep. Rick Lazio Declares for New York Senate Race

Aired May 19, 2000 - 6:24 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We interrupt that report of CNN 20 to take you to New York, to Long Island, where Congressman Rick Lazio will talk to reporters about his decision to run for the U.S. Senate.

REP. RICK LAZIO (R), NEW YORK: Earlier today I had a conversation with Mayor Giuliani in which he expressed to me his decision that he would discontinue his efforts for United States Senate. I know it was an exceedingly difficult decision for the mayor. He certainly had the best interest of New Yorkers in mind when he made that decision. He told me that he needed to focus on his health, which I fully support.

I know that some of you have been asking about whether or not we would have an announcement here. We did earlier make a statement announcing that I would be a candidate for the United States Senate in New York. I will be making an official announcement shortly.

But I'm looking forward to this. This has been my lifelong home. It's been a state that I have represented in the United States House of Representatives for eight years. I am looking forward to this race with enthusiasm, and we will have much more to say about that over the next couple days.

Thank you very much.

WOODRUFF: A very brief announcement there from New York Congressman, Long Island Congressman Rick Lazio that he will indeed be a candidate for the United States Senate. His announcement coming in the aftermath of the announcement today by New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani that he will not make the run, mainly because of his battle with prostate cancer.

Bill Schneider, you are joining us from New York.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Atlanta.

WOODRUFF: From Atlanta? You're still qualified to talk about New York politics. Congressman Lazio, how does this change the political equation here. He'll be the candidate running against first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

SCHNEIDER: Well, Judy, he's a relatively unknown candidate. He's a congressman, one of over 30 from New York state. He's not known statewide. Over three-quarters of New York voters about a week ago had never heard of him, though I bet a lot more have heard of him now, and they will in the next few days.

This means the race is more than not to be a referendum on Mrs. Clinton. And the latest polling shows that even against Mr. Lazio, only 50 percent of New Yorkers say they would vote for Mrs. Clinton. So it still looks like it could be a very tight race, even against an unknown candidate.

WOODRUFF: Frank Buckley, our correspondent who's been covering this race, joins us from our New York bureau.

Frank, how does this change the dynamics of this race?

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, one thing that should be considered is that Rick Lazio doesn't have the negatives that are associated with Rudy Giuliani. Yes, he is a relative unknown within the state and throughout the U.S., but Rudy Giuliani was well-known and well-disliked by a large group of people. He was also well-liked by another large group of people.

The polling has suggested that both candidates in the race up this point, Giuliani and Clinton, are entrenched. They're both in the 40s with their support, and the undecideds have been a small group that are right in the middle. That hasn't changed over the past three weeks. There have been slight changes here or there, but generally speaking their support of this level for one candidate, this level for another candidate.

Rick Lazio, yes, he's unknown. But remember, George Pataki was a relative unknown when he ran against Mario Cuomo for governor and won. So it's not a horrible thing from the Republican prospective that a relative unknown is in this race.

WOODRUFF: All right, Frank Buckley referring to George Pataki, who is, of course, the current -- the sitting governor of New York state.

Thanks to you, Frank Buckley, our correspondent who's been covering that race in New York, and to CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

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