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Special Event

Rep. Rick Lazio Officially Announces Bid for His Party's New York Senate Nomination

Aired May 20, 2000 - 2:45 p.m. ET

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

GENE RANDALL, CNN ANCHOR: This is Gene Randall in Washington.

We're going live now to West Islip, New York, where Republican Congressman Rick Lazio is about to announce his bid for his party's U.S. Senate nomination, a late replacement for New York City's mayor, Rudy Giuliani, who announced yesterday he is dropping out of the race, the race of course against Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton, the country's first lady. Once again, the scene is West Islet, New York.

Apparently now, it's going to be a couple of minutes before the announcement. That's how these things go sometimes.

John Fund, fro the "Wall Street Journal," you with me in New York?

JOHN FUND, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Yes, pleasure.

RANDALL: Well, what do you read into today's event? No big surprise, I suppose

FUND: Well, the Republican Party machine in New York often isn't all that principled, but it's incredibly efficient. Rick Lazio comes out of Long Island, which is one of the premier Republican machines. He has hooked up with Governor Pataki. They have already sewed up the nomination. Republicans have a new Senate candidate within 24 hours of the old one dropping out, quite remarkable.

And I think now Rick Lazio is going to start raising money in buckets, and he'll probably be financially competitive with Hillary Clinton within a few weeks.

RANDALL: And as we wait for the Lazio announcement in New York, John, months ago, Governor Pataki and others were urging Rick Lazio not to challenge Rudy Giuliani, not well known enough they say. He is still unknown. How does he make that up?

FUND: Well, unfortunately for the first lady, I think this is an election that's a referendum on Hillary Rodham Clinton. She leads Rick Lazio by 20 points. That's the good news. The bad news is Rick Lazio is largely unknown to New Yorkers -- 72 percent don't know enough about him. If he makes a favorable impression, then he can make up the distance and probably be tied with the first lady within a few weeks. If he doesn't, then the first lady is going to be able to coast into the Senate based on the fact that New York is such a Democratic state, went for Bill Clinton by 24 points last time.

RANDALL: Now is this to say that Lazio would not carry the same political baggage that Rudy Giuliani would, as polarizing a figure as some people think he is?

FUND: Well, I talked with Rev. Al Sharpton this week, and he said, "I'll be honest with you, it would be difficult for my troops, in a minority community, to really come out and work 24 hours, seven days a week against Rick Lazio, because he doesn't stir up the same emotions, the same animus that Rudy Giuliani did.

So while I think Rick Lazio would be at a deficit in bringing out New York City voters, the ethnic voters in some of the neighborhoods, he also would probably not stir up black turnout and minority turnout quite as much as Giuliani would.

RANDALL: And here is Rick Lazio, four term congressman from New York, about to announce he will run against Hillary Rodham Clinton. A formality of the party's nominating process lies ahead of course, but he now is the odds-on favorite, a virtual certainty for the nomination.

REP. RICK LAZIO (R), NEW YORK: Thank you. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. Well, this is fun.

(APPLAUSE)

Well, you're probably all wondering why I brought you here today.

(LAUGHTER)

Well, I'll tell you it feels great. The wait and uncertainty is over.

Today, I want to begin with a tribute to Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

(APPLAUSE)

Let's give him a big hand.

(APPLAUSE)

Rudy, had to make a tough decision and I respect it. I know that all of us have our heart-felt support with him as he begins what I am certain will be a successful effort to overcome his illness. I wish him well and I deeply appreciate his service to our state, and to our nation.

I would also like to mention Senator Moynihan, who while we often differed on the issues, always conducted himself as a true statesman for New York. We're all grateful for his service.

(APPLAUSE)

I am very honored and very humbled that you would all come out for me on this Saturday in the summer, and by your overwhelming support over the years. There are so many people to thank.

My wife Pat.

(APPLAUSE)

And two little daughters Melanie (ph) and Kelsey (ph).

(APPLAUSE)

My mom, my sisters.

(APPLAUSE)

My family and my friends, all of you, and my staff, the people that make me look good day in and day out. And all of the people of the second district who have been so supportive of me over these years. All of you have stood by me.

Now I've always believed that public service is a noble endeavor. As a prosecutor, as a neighbor, a local legislator and as your congressman, I have worked hard to try and make New York a better place. You know you can tell from my accent that I'm a life-long New Yorker.

(APPLAUSE)

You see, you see I don't have to fake it.

(LAUGHTER)

New York just isn't a place I represent, it's my home.

(APPLAUSE)

And I've never needed an exploratory committee to decide where I want to live.

(APPLAUSE)

Everything that I am today I owe to two people -- my mom and dad and the way they raised me.

LAZIO: Both of my parents are military veterans. Their first date was a Brooklyn Dodgers game at Ebbitts (ph) Field. My dad was Army, my mom Navy, and I will tell you, during those Army-Navy games, you did not want to be at our home.

(LAUGHTER)

Well, my parents instilled in me certain timeless values that have served me very well over the years. I'm the son of a guy who came back from World War II with not a dime in his pocket. He went out on a hope and a dream and borrowed $700 and started an auto parts business.

And for the next 30 years of his life, he worked six and seven days a week at that small business to provide for his family. He believed in the American dream that honest hard work would earn success and that you could give your children the gift of opportunity.

My mom and dad taught me and my sisters the bedrock values that guide us -- family and work and responsibility. Now I'm a dad. My wife and children are the joy -- pride and joy of my life. Being a husband and a father and a neighbor are what I cherish the most.

I want that dream of opportunity and safety and a limitless future for my children just as you want it for yours and your grandchildren. I believe honest public service is the noblest of ways to serve the greater good. I love New York.

That's no mere slogan off a tourism sign to me. This is my home, once and for always. The family of New York -- diverse, vibrant, proud and energetic -- is my family. This is the community that I serve with pride, and I am one of you.

And so, my fellow New Yorkers, today I announce that I am a candidate for the United States Senate from New York.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I will run hard. I will fight fair, and I will stand on the issues, and I mean to win.

(APPLAUSE)

This is an important race. It seems as though everybody throughout our great country is watching us, and every possible liberal group from outside of our state is lined up with our Democratic opponent. Well, I say bring them on.

(APPLAUSE)

I say bring them on. Bring them on from Washington, from Hollywood, from Arkansas.

(APPLAUSE)

Because they're going to learn something about New York and about this New Yorker that I never back down from a fight.

(APPLAUSE)

Some say that New York will never elect anybody but a celebrity. Well, we'll see about that. I'm no celebrity. In fact, you can just call me the underdog. But here in New York, we love underdogs. (APPLAUSE)

And I am ready -- I am ready to work hard and to earn this job.

LAZIO: I can't call on Air Force One whenever I need a ride.

(LAUGHTER)

But New Yorkers can count on me and call on me whenever they need something to get done.

(APPLAUSE)

I put my Mets hat on when I was six-years-old and I've been working here ever since.

(APPLAUSE)

I've stacked mufflers at Linden (ph) Auto Parts on Montauk Highway. I played Little League in these fields in West Islip. I have fished and clammed in our waters. I went to our schools. I prayed in our churches. I've married a wonderful, beautiful native New Yorker...

(APPLAUSE)

... and I've watched our two little girls born in our local hospitals.

(APPLAUSE)

I've helped lock up criminals in Suffolk County as an assistant district attorney. I've worked to make sure that local colleges get funded and that street lamps worked as a local official. For eight years I've been a common sense voice for New York in the United States Congress.

And now I'm serving as the Chairman of the Housing and Community Opportunity Committee. I know Washington, and I know New York.

(APPLAUSE)

And I am fully prepared to be your Senator. I will get the job done.

(APPLAUSE)

I will campaign across this great state with vigor and determination because this job, this job must be earned. I have a record that I am proud of. It is a mainstream record that fits the thinking of the vast majority of people in our state.

I'm a fiscal conservative who believes government spends too much and taxes too much. I believe that those of us who have lived through the New York of the 1980s, know all too well what happens when big government takes over and forces out-dated liberal solutions upon our families and our businesses -- things stop working. People lose their jobs to other states. Opportunity quickly flees.

Luckily for New York, under the great leadership of Governor Pataki and our legislators in Albany, and of Mayor Giuliani in the city, New York has left big government behind and we have turned our state around.

In this race, the people of New York will have clear choice.

My opponent is a liberal and a proud one. And I respect her for that. But make no mistake about this, she is no more a new Democrat than a New Yorker.

(APPLAUSE)

She offers the big government ideology that crippled New York in the 1980s. I don't believe we want to enter this new century pledging allegiance to the liberal ideas that so painfully failed us in the last century.

I offer a vision from New York, for New York.

(APPLAUSE)

I am a family supporter who dreams of culture that helps parents in trying to raise their children, and rejects the corrupting pollution of thoughtless violence on television and in the movies. I believe in reasonable measures to support the rights of sportsmen, while aggressively protecting our children from illegal use of handguns.

LAZIO: And that's why...

(APPLAUSE)

And that's why, because of all of you, because of where I live, that I broke with many in our party to support the Brady Bill and the ban on assault rifles.

(APPLAUSE)

I'm not going to duck the tough issues. As a small government conservative, I support a woman's right to choose. However, that right should not include the extreme procedure of partial birth abortion.

(APPLAUSE)

And I believe -- I believe the taxpayers should never be forced to pay for abortions.

(APPLAUSE)

I am a (OFF-MIKE) environmentalist with the record to prove it. With the record to prove it. You know, our state is one of the most beautiful places in the greatest nation on earth. Think of our natural treasures -- Niagara Falls, the Finger Lakes, the Thousand Islands, St. Lawrence Seaway, the Catskills, the Adirondacks, the Hudson River Valley, the beaches of Long Island and the Long Island Sound.

(APPLAUSE)

Great poets and writers have made careers describing New York's natural beauties. I don't believe that Congress has done enough to protect our land and water during the past several years. And as your senator, I will push to set a higher standard for protecting our environment.

(APPLAUSE)

And I am proudest -- proudest to say that I am reformer. In Congress, I have fought for reform, beginning with education. Our Founding Fathers knew this. Two hundred years ago, they used to say to plan to decade, plant a tree. But to plan for a century, teach the children.

(APPLAUSE)

You see, I have two little girls in the New York public school system. They are in the first and second grades. All of the hopes and dreams that you have for your children and your grandchildren I have for my daughters, Molly and Kelsey.

(APPLAUSE)

And I believe in the power of high standards and setting standards of excellence. That's why I support measuring teacher performance. Teachers are the life blood of any school, and they need to be good. That's why I proposed innovative programs to make it easier for trained professionals to become teachers and to help newer teachers draw upon the experience of their seasoned colleagues.

I want to help good teachers do their jobs well. That means trying new ideas and challenging those that oppose all reforms. I am proud of my record, and if my opponent thinks she can fool the good people of New York about my mainstream position on the issues, well, all can I say to her is "forget about it."

(APPLAUSE)

My friends, a new century demands new ideas. I want this campaign to be one of ideas -- a contest of honest differences without unneeded personal rancor. This is the campaign that New Yorkers deserve. Not a mud-wrestling match to amuse the media, but dialogue of ideas that we can be proud of.

LAZIO: As our campaign grows, I will be addressing the issues our next senator must be ready deal with -- how we maintain security in a dangerous world, how we compete with Asia, how we rebuild our slacking defenses, how we face the challenge of protecting our health care system without surrendering it to a big impersonal government we know will make things worse, how we get our neediest seniors prescription drugs that they can afford, how to promote -- that's right. Yes, yes.

(APPLAUSE)

We are going to get there. We are going to get there. How to promote independence and self-sufficiency among Americans with disabilities, how to promote affordable housing which helps individuals build stronger families and fosters personal responsibility, how we keep our sacred promise of a safe, strong Social Security system I promise that I am dedicated to protecting.

How can we create better paying jobs, not just those in already prosperous areas but in areas of our state, especially upstate, that continue to struggle so that nobody is left behind.

(APPLAUSE)

And my friends, how we use politics to bring people together, to believe in our institutions again instead of leading in only a narrow selfish way that feeds cancer of public cynicism.

I hope that our campaign will inspire. I believe that people of our state are looking for a candidate who cares about them and understands their everyday concerns. They are looking for candidate who is a proven legislator. I believe the people of New York are hungry for candidate who will set a new tone, someone who will lead by uniting people, a candidate who will attract new faces and new voices. They are looking for candidate who will make decisions on what is best for New York, not merely what is expedient for national political career.

(APPLAUSE)

I think New Yorkers want a candidate who speaks from the center for common sense New Yorkers, not from the far left of the Democratic Party -- that's right.

(APPLAUSE) The people of our state -- of our great state are looking for a senator who can be great senator on day one. And ladies and gentlemen, if you agree, then I am your candidate, and I ask you to join me today.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. Thank you.

RANDALL: Lazio of West Islet, Long Island announcing he is indeed a candidate for the Republican Senate nomination in New York in a race against Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton.

John Fund from the "Wall Street Journal" has been listening to this from our bureau in Manhattan.

John, I think a theme was set early on in this speech, when Lazio said, "For me, 'I love New York' is no mere slogan. This my home once and always." Any doubts he will make this a campaign in which Hillary Rodham Clinton is the issue? FUND: Gene, the only think he didn't do was literally take stakes through his shoes and plant them in the earth of New York. It was amazing. He clearly had did three things in speech. One is he established himself as the New York candidate, playing off his accent, which is certainly far more New Yorkish than Rudy Giuliani's or Hillary Clinton. And then took what he call the age-old issues the Democrats like to throw at Republicans, abortion, guns and the environment -- and he basically tried diffuse them. He said, if want to paint me as a Newt Gingrich Republican, you're going to have trouble, because my positions are fairly moderate by New York standards. And the third thing that he did, was I think he showed a lot of humor and grace. He's clearly not a stiff guy. Probably did very well for an opening bid in terms of needling Hillary Rodham Clinton without insulting her.

RANDALL: John, I suppose the only opportunity he might have missed is that he said "forget about it" instead of "fuhgetaboutit."

John Fund of the "Wall Street Journal," thanks very much.

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