White House Brief: Things to know about George Pataki

AP News
Posted: May 28, 2015 3:32 AM

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Former New York Gov. George Pataki plans to say Thursday whether he's running for the Republican presidential nomination. Here's a snapshot of things to know about him.



Lanky and low-key, Pataki is a Republican who was elected governor three times in a reliably Democratic state. He first won the office in 1994 by defeating liberal icon Mario Cuomo and held on to power for 12 years by marrying left-leaning social positions with a tax-cutting, tough-on-crime brand of conservatism. Pataki nurtured a reputation as a quietly competent governor free from the rhetorical flights of his predecessor or the sort of scandal that sank his successor, Eliot Spitzer. During the '90s, Pataki benefited from a booming economy that kept money flowing into the government even as he and the state Legislature cut taxes. But by the start of his third term in 2002, the state struggled in a national recession and the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Pataki has flirted with presidential runs more than once before, but he has repeatedly failed to generate much interest. Since leaving public office in 2006, he has worked as a lawyer and is a founder of the Pataki-Cahill Group, which provides services to businesses.



Pataki, 69, was raised on his family's small vegetable farm about 40 miles north of New York City, in Peekskill. Pataki, like his brother and cousins, grew up plowing, picking and delivering produce to the farm stand. He attended Yale University on an academic scholarship and later graduated from Columbia Law School. From the get-go, Pataki was not shy about taking on incumbents. That's how he became mayor of Peekskill in 1982 and later a state assemblyman and state senator. He was a freshman state senator when he took on Cuomo in 1994. Clearly ambitious, Pataki has not always been well served by his understated style — what a magazine once dubbed "Bland Ambition." Though he was a key player in the government's reaction to the devastating Sept. 11 attacks in New York City, Pataki was overshadowed by the city's charismatic mayor, Rudolph Giuliani. Now, out of office for nine years, he is trying to distinguish himself in a Republican field filled with big personalities. Pataki has been married to his wife, Elizabeth, for more than 40 years. They have four children and numerous grandchildren.



Pataki was a practically unknown state lawmaker in 1994 when he challenged Cuomo. While Cuomo had a national reputation for soaring oratory, Pataki was a middling speaker who ran a disciplined campaign focused on taxes and restoring New York's death penalty. It was a David-defeats-Goliath moment he still boasts about 21 years later. While Pataki argues that he proved his electability in a blue state, he has spent recent months promoting his conservative credentials.



Pataki has made repeated trips to New Hampshire since expressing interest in a run in January, shaking hands on snowy streets and talking to fellow Republicans. Not only is this crucial primary state a five-hour drive from Manhattan, it is a logical place to start a Republican presidential campaign for an easterner with a moderate-to-conservative record who was raised Roman Catholic. Pataki also has traveled to Iowa.



Pataki co-wrote an autobiography in 1998 when he was governor.



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