Trailing in the polls, demolished in the money race, virtually unknown outside of a small group of political insiders, Rick Lazio did what any Republican gubernatorial hopeful would do to energize a campaign: head to Bay Ridge.
So that’s why Lazio was found on Fifth Avenue in the right-of-center neighborhood last Thursday shaking hands and talking politics in his bid to beat Democratic standard bearer Andrew Cuomo this fall.
He gave his standard stump speech, painting himself as a champion of the little guy.
“Small businesses are struggling with high property taxes and energy costs,” the former congressman from Long Island said. “I will turn Albany around, and fix this fiscal disaster. Brooklyn needs to know that help is on the way.”
But before Lazio can even get a chance to help Brooklyn, he needs help from the borough of Kings — and especially Bay Ridge, part of a historically conservative area that voted for President Bush in 2004 and the McCain-Palin ticket in 2008.
Lazio’s Fifth Avenue tour started at the old-school Hinsch’s ice cream parlor near 86th Street, continued to Chop Stix Chinese restaurant at 84th Street and finished at Rocco’s Pizzeria at 79th Street, where he enjoyed a slice with GOP assembly candidate Nicole Malliotakis and praised the excited staff.
The staff responded in pizza and in kind.
“We’re definitely going to support him,” co-owner Danny Loccisano said. “I never thought that a big politician like that would come down here and talk to us.”
Lazio needs such die-hard supporters. First, he must get past his primary opponent, Buffalo millionaire Carl Paladino, before taking on Cuomo, the state’s attorney general, who is crushing Lazio 58–27 in the latest Rasmussen poll.
Cuomo is also significantly outspending Lazio. But as he smiled and shook hands with Bay Ridge residents on his stroll up Fifth Avenue, Lazio said he was undaunted.
“Yeah I’d call us the underdogs, but I’ve been there before and won,” Lazio said, citing his 1992 victory over then-18-year Rep. Tom Downey. “People talk about money raising, but this is an election, not an auction.”