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CNN Today

Election 2000: New York Republicans Bury the Hatchet, Allows John McCain on the Ballot

Aired February 4, 2000 - 2:04 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: McCain today might be singing. I love New York, not just the city but the whole state. It had looked like McCain would not be competing on a level field in New York's March 7th primary, but as CNN's Frank Buckley reports, state Republicans have corrected that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John McCain was campaigning in South Carolina but enthused about news from the north, New York, where Governor George Pataki announced through a spokesman that he would "take the appropriate steps to ensure that McCain would be on the statewide ballot" there.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So I'm happy to tell you the last vestiges of a one-party, communist state has now been eliminated in the New York Republican Party.

(APPLAUSE)

So, we're not only going to win in South Carolina, we're going to win in New York, too.

(APPLAUSE)

BUCKLEY: McCain's latest push has come in letters sent to state Republican chairman Bill Powers and to New York Governor George Pataki, McCain urging them to, in his words, do the right thing.

"The system that is responsible for this sad situation cannot be defended any longer," McCain writes. "It is an embarrassment to a wonderful state, a disappointment to a proud party, and an affront to the people."

McCain's challenge to the state's complex primary rules are also before a federal judge. The rules gave New York Republican leaders, most of whom support George W. Bush, a way to keep McCain off the primary ballot in more than a third of the state's 31 congressional districts.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's completely up to them, OK. This is their state. BUCKLEY; Earlier Thursday, Governor Bush said it was up to New York Republicans to decide the issue. On Pataki's position, he told CNN, "it's the right decision. I welcome it." But Bush himself is off the ballot in at least one district. For some Republicans attempting to keep Steve Forbes off the ballot, Forbes fought back, his attorneys documenting that petitions supporting Bush in at least one district were fraudulent, names for Bush delegates forged. As a result, Bush will not be on the ballot in that district.

CLETA MITCHELL, FORBES CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: I hope the lesson they learn from this New York experience is not to drive all of the other candidates who are not the endorsed candidates of the establishment.

BUCKLEY (on camera): The Republican establishment here is still squarely behind Governor Bush, but rank and file voters are the ones who will decide who gets the delegates, and now it appears at least one of their choices will be candidate John McCain.

Frank Buckley, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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