Carl Paladino was one of the most surprising winners in Tuesday's primaries, soundly defeating Rick Lazio for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in New York. He will now face Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in the November election. Although the relationship between Paladino and much of the Republican Party has been chilly over the past few months, the Paladino campaign said the GOP leadership is reaching out and they're ready to work together.
"We've been contacted by several different national Republican leaders congratulating Carl and telling Carl that they're looking forward to working with him," Paladino campaign manager Michael Caputo told the Huffington Post, although he wouldn't identify which officials have contacted them. "We've also heard from the Republican leadership of the New York State party in a conciliatory fashion. We're looking forward to bringing everybody inside to work toward victory on the 2nd of November."
Alex Carey, director of communications for the New York State GOP, said that the party is "throwing all our support behind Mr. Paladino." "Our chairman, Ed Cox, called Carl last night, and Carl called him back within minutes," said Carey on Wednesday. "The two of them had a good conversation and agreed that they're looking forward to working together." He added that because Paladino "tapped into a whole different pool of voters," he expects him to drive turnout and make the race against Cuomo very competitive.
One interesting player in the race will be the Republican Governors Association (RGA). On Tuesday night, the organization put out statements congratulating the GOP gubernatorial primary winners in Maryland, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. Missing, however, was a full statement on Paladino's win, although RGA Political Director Paul Bennecke tweeted, "Congrats to NY GOP nominee for Gov, Carl Paladino: www.PaladinoforthePeople.com #RGA."
Neither Lazio nor Paladino was RGA Chairman Haley Barbour's preferred choice; he had courted Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, who lost to Lazio at the state's nominating convention. Tea Party favorite Paladino "finished a distant third out of four candidates" at the time.
Caputo said that the campaign had heard from the RGA after Paladino's win, and they would be talking with the national group today. "I think everybody was a bit surprised by the mandate Carl got from Republicans, and they're trying to figure out what it means, not just for the New York Republican Party, but for the national Republican Party," said Caputo, who noted that before Tuesday, none of these officials had ever contacted the campaign. "I think this disaffected Republicans have been a real surprise for every election in the nation, and Carl's was the biggest surprise of all. Not just because they didn't expect Carl, but they didn't expect Carl to just absolutely whack Lazio."
The RGA proactively reaching out to Paladino may be an attempt to avoid stories about GOP disunity and the establishment shying away from its Tea Party-backed nominees. After a flurry of media reports on Tuesday saying the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) wasn't going to back O'Donnell, Chairman John Cornyn (R-Tex.) issued a statement saying the committee was fully behind O'Donnell and sending her a check for $42,000: "Let there be no mistake: The National Republican Senatorial Committee -- and I personally as the committee's chairman -- strongly stand by all of our Republican nominees, including Christine O'Donnell in Delaware." But Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), who lost to O'Donnell, said he won't be endorsing his challenger. As ThinkProgress's Scott Keyes noted, in more than a dozen races around the country that pitted an establishment candidate against a Tea Party candidate, the losing candidate has refused to officially get behind the winner.
Neither the RGA nor the Republican National Committee returned Huffington Post's request for comment.
During the primary campaign, Paladino became infamous for past comments that were considered racially offensive and forwarding racially and sexually explicit e-mails. More recently, comments surfaced that Paladino reportedly made in 2006, which compared New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D), who is an Orthodox Jew, to "Hitler" or an "Antichrist."
UPDATE: Prominent former New York politicians Al D'Amato, Ed Koch, and Carl McCall have written an open letter urging New Yorkers to reject Paladino.
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