Conservatives Looking for 'Real Republican' in NYC Mayor's Race

By Jeff McKay | July 7, 2008 | 8:27 PM EDT

( - The decision by two former Democrats to switch to the Republican Party in order to avoid a crowded field in the New York City mayoral primary has enraged the leader of the New York State Conservative Party, who vows that a "real Republican" candidate will step forward as early as next week.

Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long said he wants, "a real Republican, not someone who just decided to get into the Republican Party," and referred to the local GOP as a "rent-a-party."

Long noted that billionaire executive Michael Bloomberg left the Democratic Party for the GOP last year as he prepared to run for mayor.

Bloomberg's only opposition thus far for the Republican nomination is former U.S. Rep. Herman Badillo, who left the Democratic Party in 1998 to become a Republican. Both Badillo and Bloomberg spent decades as Democrats and are pro-choice on the issue of abortion.

Long was also critical of New York State Republican leaders, accusing them of failing to try to find the best candidate.

The New York GOP's message, according to Long, is: "We have a ballot position. It's available for anybody who wants to change their registration and make things easy for us."

State Sen. Roy Goodman, the Manhattan GOP chairman, backs Bloomberg for mayor and denies knowledge of Long's plan to find a more conservative candidate.

Goodman, a liberal Republican, touted Bloomberg for what he calls his "adherence to basic Republican ideas" and likened Bloomberg to the city's current Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani and to New York's GOP Governor George Pataki.

In the 1989 and 1993 general elections for mayor, the Conservative Party accounted for less than 20,000 votes in each contest, not enough to affect the outcome either time.

However, in 1989, before running as the Conservative Party candidate, billionaire businessman Ronald Lauder challenged Giuliani for the GOP nomination.

The expensive battle waged by Lauder left Giuliani weakened, and he narrowly lost the general election to Democrat David Dinkins.

Long refused to identify whom he had in mind to represent the Conservative Party for mayor, but said the announcement could come as early as next week. According to Long, "this (New York City GOP) is rent-a-party. You don't build a party that way."