Levy tests the waters
 for gubernatorial run

Saying he aims to find out if his “reform agenda” will resonate statewide, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy announced last week that he plans to test the waters on a possible run for governor.

Mr. Levy said he has created an exploratory committee to weigh a gubernatorial run, making him the first New York Democrat to formally announce a potential primary challenge to incumbent Governor David Paterson.

“I want to see if my reform agenda will resonate throughout the state,” Mr. Levy said in an interview Tuesday with the Times/Review newspapers. “I think the state could certainly use a fiscal conservative at a time when the state budget is at near collapse.”

While Mr. Levy, 50, of Bayport, is the first Democrat to formally say he would consider taking a shot at moving Mr. Paterson out of the governor’s mansion, he’s not the only candidate expected to enter the race. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has long been rumored as a possible replacement for Mr. Paterson, who has ignored President Barack Obama’s urging that he not seek a new term.

Mr. Levy said his biggest challenge entering the race would be coming up with the kind of money it would take to mount a serious gubernatorial campaign. The county executive, who currently boasts a war chest of about $4 million in campaign funds, estimated it would take “a minimum of $20 million” to win the job.

“If people see you as a viable candidate, the money comes very quickly,” Mr. Levy said. “Right now it’s about showing people what I’ve accomplished and getting my name out there.”

Mr. Levy said fiscal conservatism would be the primary focus of his campaign, should he earn the nomination. He said the county’s tight spending and six-year general fund tax freeze would be key talking points.

“At a time when the state has increased spending by 23 percent we’ve increased spending just 2 percent in Suffolk,” the county executive said.

Mr. Levy, whose current term expires in 2011, said he would not rule out the possibility of a run for attorney general should Mr. Cuomo secure the nomination. But he said right now his focus is on the possibility of becoming governor.

“Of course you want to be the executive, because that’s how you can get the most done,” he said.

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