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Zuckerman says he's not running for NY Senate

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SARA KUGLER | March 2, 2010 09:52 PM EST | AP

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NEW YORK — Real estate tycoon and newspaper publisher Mortimer Zuckerman won't run for the U.S. Senate in New York, his newspaper reported Tuesday.

Zuckerman, 72, told the Daily News he did not have time to campaign or to devote himself to working in Washington.

"It demands unhindered attention, which I am unable to give at this time," he said.

Zuckerman in recent weeks had been exploring the idea of running as a Republican for U.S. Senate this year, including discussing it with another wealthy businessman-turned-politician, Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The announcement came a day after another potential candidate, former Tennessee congressman Harold Ford Jr., said he would not run in the Democratic primary for fear it would divide the party.

Ford said Monday night he didn't want to weaken the Democratic party with a bitter primary challenge to New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

"It would have been a close, tough, tough fight," Ford said Tuesday. "The last thing I wanted to see was for this seat to go Republican."

The only declared Republican in the race is little-known attorney Bruce Blakeman, who has said "I'm not a wealthy man" and estimates he would need to raise $15 million to $20 million to run a credible campaign.

Zuckerman, who has a fortune estimated by Forbes magazine at $1.5 billion, was seen by the GOP as an attractive possibility because of his ability to pay for his own campaign.

Bloomberg and Zuckerman recently talked about the possibility of the publisher mounting a GOP campaign this year, according to two people familiar with the conversation.

The two people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the conversation was private, said Bloomberg warned Zuckerman that it is a rude awakening to go from the private business world to politics, where so much is out in the open for examination.

Bloomberg's wealth is estimated by Forbes at $17.5 billion, and he self-financed his three winning campaigns for City Hall. The liberal-leaning mayor ran on the GOP line each time.

Like Bloomberg, who stepped down from his financial information company to run for mayor in 2001, Zuckerman likely would have had to leave his media positions if he ran. Zuckerman also is editor of U.S. News & World Report.

His real estate investments also could have complicated a political campaign; his company, Boston Properties Inc., is publicly traded. Among its properties is Manhattan's landmark General Motors building, which the company and its investment partners bought last year for a reported $2.8 billion, the highest price ever paid for a building.

Zuckerman appears regularly as a television pundit, often discussing economic issues and foreign policy. He was among a group of CEOs who had lunch with President Barack Obama at the White House in January.

Zuckerman regularly criticizes both major parties, saying last month on "The McLaughlin Group" political commentary program that the nation suffers from the "inability, somehow or other, to fashion policies that are addressing the real problems."

"The Democrats don't want to cut the spending, and the Republicans don't want to increase taxes," he said. "There has to be more people ready to reach out to the middle and make a solution."

Gillibrand, who was appointed to her seat last year when Hillary Rodham Clinton became U.S. secretary of state, has vowed to wage a vigorous campaign no matter who her opponent is this fall.