George Pataki: Wikis


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George Pataki

George E. Pataki in 2007

In office
January 1, 1995 – December 31, 2006
Lieutenant Betsy McCaughey Ross
Mary Donohue
Preceded by Mario Cuomo
Succeeded by Eliot Spitzer

Member of the
New York State Senate
from the 37th District
In office
January 1, 1993 – December 31, 1994

Member of the
New York State Assembly
from the 37th District
In office
January 1, 1985 – December 31, 1992

In office

Born June 24, 1945 (1945-06-24) (age 64)
Peekskill, New York
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Libby Pataki
Alma mater Yale University,
Columbia Law School
Profession Attorney, Politician
Religion Roman Catholic

George Elmer Pataki (born June 24, 1945) is an American politician who was the 53rd Governor of New York. A member of the Republican Party, Pataki served three consecutive four-year terms from January 1, 1995[1] until December 31, 2006.



Pataki's paternal grandfather[2] was János (later John) Pataki (1883 – 1971) of Aranyos-Apáti, Hungary,[2] who came to the United States in 1908 and worked in a hat factory. János had married Erzsébet (later Elizabeth; 1887 – 1975) around 1904. Their son, Pataki's father, was Louis P. Pataki (1912 – 1996), a mailman. Pataki's maternal grandfather was Matteo Laganà (born in Calabria, Italy in 1889), who married Agnes Lynch of County Louth, Ireland around 1914. Their daughter, Margaret Lagana, is Pataki's mother. He has an older brother, Louis. George Pataki can still speak a little Hungarian[2] today.

Pataki married Elizabeth Rowland in 1973, and they have four children: Emily, Teddy, Allison, and Owen.

After attending Peekskill High School, he entered Yale University in 1964 on an academic scholarship, and graduated in 1967. While there he served as chairman of the Conservative Party of the Yale Political Union.[3] He received his J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1970.[4] He is an honorary brother of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Phi chapter).

Summary of political career

Early political career

While practicing law at Plunkett and Jaffe, P.C. in Peekskill, Pataki became friends with Michael C. Finnegan, who would go on to be the architect of Pataki's ascendancy to power.[5] Finnegan would go on to manage Pataki's campaigns for Mayor, State Assembly, State Senate, and the Governorship.[6] Finnegan was then appointed Chief Counsel to the Governor in 1995, and played the key role in developing and negotiating nearly all of Pataki's early legislative success.[7]


Mayor of Peekskill

George Pataki first won elective office in November 1981. He was elected Mayor of the City of Peekskill, which is located in the Northwestern part of Westchester County. Pataki defeated the Democratic incumbent Fred Bianco Jr., winning 70% of the vote. In November 1983, Pataki was re-elected Mayor, winning 74% of the vote.

New York State Assembly

In November 1984, George Pataki was elected to the New York State Assembly, (91st district), by defeating the one-term Democratic incumbent, William J. Ryan, winning 53% of the vote. In November 1986, Pataki defeated Ryan in a rematch, capturing 63% of the vote. Pataki won a third term in November 1988, winning 74% of the vote against Democratic candidate Mark Zinna. Pataki won a fourth and final term in November 1990, winning over 90% of the vote, as he only faced a minor party candidate.

New York State Senate

From 1983-1992, the 91st Assembly district included parts of Westchester, Orange, Rockland, and Putnam Counties. However, in 1992, Assembly Democrats substantially redrew the district boundaries, placing the newly renamed 90th Assembly district entirely within Westchester County. Instead of running in the newly redrawn district, Pataki decided to challenge seven-term incumbent Republican State Senator Mary Goodhue in the Republican primary by criticizing her for taking her grandchildren to Disney World and missing a vote in Albany. Pataki won the primary by a 52% to 48% margin. However, Goodhue was still going to appear on the November ballot on a minor party line. In November 1992, George Pataki won election to the New York State Senate in a 4-way race. Pataki served one term before running for Governor.

Gubernatorial campaigns

1994 campaign


Pataki was a first term state senator from Westchester County when he launched his bid for the Republican nomination for governor in 1994. He said he launched the campaign because of his frustration in the Senate regarding how Albany worked and on tax issues. He was little known statewide and his campaign received a boost when he was endorsed by U. S. Sen. Al D'Amato. He received the party's endorsement at the spring state convention and easily defeated former State Republican Chairman Richard Rosenbaum in the September primary. Pataki was considered an underdog from the start since he was running against three term Gov. Mario Cuomo and that Pataki had little name recognition statewide. D'Amato reportedly backed Pataki because of a poll that showed a pro-choice, fiscal conservative from the New York City suburbs could win statewide for governor. The poll also showed a female running mate for lieutenant governor would help the ticket, thus leading to the selection of academic Betsy McCaughey as Pataki's running mate.

The polls had Gov. Cuomo up by as much as ten points going into the final two weeks, but they then narrowed at the end. In reality, however, Pataki remained neck and neck with Cuomo during the entire race, focusing solely on the issues of tax cuts and the death penalty during the campaign. In addition he made an issue of Cuomo seeking a fourth term as governor and pledged to serve only two terms in office. Cuomo was helped late in the race by the endorsement of New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. In the end, Pataki narrowly defeated Cuomo in the general election. Many, including George Pataki himself, believe Howard Stern's endorsement of Pataki was a major reason for his win. As a result, Stern was present at the podium with Pataki during his inauguration.

Pataki made up for a softer performance in New York City and Long Island by running up a decisive margin north of the city, especially among upstaters disenchanted with Cuomo.[8] Pataki was the first governor elected since Franklin D. Roosevelt to not come from one of the five boroughs of New York City.


1994 NYS Republican and Conservative Party Tickets


General election results
Governor candidate Running Mate Party Popular Vote (PV)
George E. Pataki Betsy McCaughey Ross Republican,
Tax Cut Now
2,488,631 (48.8 %)
Mario M. Cuomo Stan Lundine Democratic,
2,364,904 (45.4 %)
B. Thomas Golisano Dominick Fusco Independence Fusion 217,490 (4.1 %)
Robert T. Walsh Virginia E. Sutton Right to Life 67,750 (1.3 %)
Robert L. Schulz Stan Dworkin Libertarian 9,506 (0.2 %)
Lawrence Lane May Nell Bockman Socialist Workers 5,410 (0.1 %)

1998 campaign


Pataki was considered the frontrunner from the start of the 1998 campaign for governor. He was unopposed for the Republican nomination and paired with a new running mate, Judge Mary Donohue. The Democrats faced a primary battle between New York City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey Ross, and former Transportation Commissioner James LaRocca. Vallone captured the Democratic nomination, with Thomas Golisano running as the Independence nominee and McCaughey Ross as the Liberal Party nominee. Pataki was easily reelected to a second term in office.


1994 Republican, Conservative and Freedom Party of New York Tickets


General election results
Governor candidate Running Mate Party Popular Vote (PV)
George E. Pataki Mary O. Donohue Republican,
2,571,991 54.32%
Peter F. Vallone Sr. Sandra Frankel Democrat,
Working Families
1,570,317 33.16%
B. Thomas Golisano Laureen Oliver Independence 364,056 7.69%
Betsy McCaughey Ross Jonathan C. Reiter Liberal 77,915 1.65%
Michael Reynolds Karen Prior Right to Life 56,683 1.20%
Al Lewis Alice Green Green 52,533 1.11%
Thomas K. Leighton Jeffrey C. Wright Marijuana Reform 24,788 0.52%
Mary Alice France - Unity Party 9,692 0.20%
Chris Garvey Don Silberger Libertarian 4,722 0.10%
Al Duncan Ruth Robinett Socialist Workers 2,539 0.05%

2002 campaign


Pataki was considered a strong contender for a third term. He ran again on a ticket with Lt. Gov. Mary Donohue and the Democrats faced a primary battle between State Comptroller Carl McCall and former HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo. Pataki emphasized his previous work and the need to have continuity following Sept. 11.

Pataki sought the nomination of the Independence Party of New York in his bid for a third term as well. He faced Thomas Golisano, the party's founder in his bid for the nomination. Pataki ran an active primary campaign and lost to Golisano. Donohue did win the primary for lieutenant governor and was both the running mate of Pataki and Golisano in the general election.

Pataki faced McCall and Golisano in the general election, during which he continued to emphasize his past work for the state. He easily defeated the two.

A Pataki-Cuomo rematch nearly occurred in the 2002 election. Mario's son Andrew Cuomo announced plans to run. However, he stumbled on April 17 and ultimately withdrew before the primary at the urging of his mentor Bill Clinton when Cuomo was quoted in the media as saying (regarding Pataki's performance post-9/11):

"Pataki stood behind the leader. He held the leader's coat. He was a great assistant to the leader. But he was not a leader. Cream rises to the top, and Rudy Giuliani rose to the top."[9]


2002 NYS Republican and Conservative Party Tickets


Governor candidate Running Mate Party Popular Vote (PV)
George E. Pataki (inc.) Mary O. Donohue (inc.) Republican, Conservative 2,262,255 48.23%
H. Carl McCall Dennis Mehiel Democratic,
Working Families
1,534,064 32.70%
B. Thomas Golisano Mary O. Donohue Independence 654,016 13.94%
Gerard J. Cronin Stasia T. Vogel Right to Life 44,195 0.94%
Stanley Aronowitz Jennifer Daniels Green 41,797 0.89%
Thomas K. Leighton Thomas J. Hillgardner Marijuana Reform 21,977 0.47%
Andrew Cuomo Charles G. King Liberal 15,761 0.34%
Scott Jeffrey Jay Greco Libertarian 5,013 0.11%
Other elections: 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006


On July 27, 2005, Pataki announced his intention not to seek a fourth term as governor in 2006.


Prior to Pataki's departure New York Post political writer Fred Dicker authored a scathing critique of Pataki's tenure, accusing the Governor of broken promises, inattentiveness to his duties, and a focus on maintaining power. It was entitled "Good Riddance"[10]

On Pataki's final day in office, The New York Times ran an editorial[11] evaluating his twelve years as governor. While the Times praised his work on health care and the environment, he was criticized for the lack of tangible reform and the consolidation of power under his watch. The Times was conflicted about his record on crime and the state budget.

Personal events

2000 presidential election

In July 2000, Pataki's name surfaced on the short list to be the running mate for Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush, along with the names of Governor John Engler of Michigan, Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania, former Senator John Danforth of Missouri, and former U. S. Labor Secretary Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina. Bush eventually selected the man who was in charge of scouting vice presidential candidates, former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. Pataki had strongly campaigned for Bush including an unsuccessful effort to keep John McCain off the New York primary ballot (which Bush ultimately won).

2004 Republican Primary

Pataki and New York GOP Chairman Sandy Treadwell faced controversy after naming moderate Assemblyman Howard Mills the party's nominee for the U.S. Senate against Senator Chuck Schumer over conservative Michael Benjamin, who held significant advantages in both fund raising and organization.[12] Benjamin publicly accused Treadwell and Pataki of trying to muscle him out of the senate race and undermine the democratic process.[12] Mills went on to lose the election in the largest landslide for a Senate seat in the history of New York.[13]

2004 Presidential election

Pataki was instrumental in bringing the 2004 Republican National Convention to Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. New York City, which normally votes overwhelmingly Democratic (the Democratic Presidential candidates carried 78 percent of the city vote in both 2000 and 2004[14]), had never hosted a Republican Convention. He introduced President George W. Bush. A year prior, Pataki had boasted Bush would carry the state in the 2004 elections; Bush lost New York 58–40 to John Kerry. Pataki notably orated, "This fall, we're going to win one for the Gipper. But our opponents, they're going lose one with the Flipper."[15]

2006 Hospitalization

Pataki suffered a burst appendix and had an emergency appendectomy on February 16, 2006 at Hudson Valley Hospital Center. Six days later, he developed a post-surgical complication (bowel obstruction caused by adhesions)[16] and was transferred to New York-Presbyterian/Columbia Medical Center for a second operation. From there, he was discharged on March 6. Doctors advised rest at home since his conditions could last up to a month. On the week of March 20–24, 2006, he appeared at a public press conference looking fit and thinner to comment on the progress of the annual budget and the recent Campaign for Fiscal Equity ruling from the New York state court. During Pataki's two surgeries, when he was under anesthesia, power officially transferred to Lt. Gov. Mary Donohue, making her the state's acting Governor. Pataki came under criticism when it was revealed that he and his staff did not inform Donohue that she was acting Governor the first time, until after Pataki had woken up and resumed power.

2006 State Comptroller controversy

In October 2006 Pataki named a special counsel to investigate the allegations that State Comptroller Alan Hevesi had misued state resources when he had a state driver chauffeur his wife around. Pataki's counsel was studying whether Pataki could recommend to the State Senate that Hevesi be removed from office. Pataki's special counsel recommended that Hevesi could be removed, but Pataki declined to recommend removal, saying that it would only apply for Hevesi's term expiring at the end of 2006 and not for his new term starting in 2007. After Hevesi's December 2006 resignation, Pataki briefly considered naming an interim comptroller to serve until the State Legislature named a new comptroller.

2007 Airplane usage controversy

During his 1994 campaign, Pataki criticized Cuomo's use of state airplanes and said he would not use the planes as governor. In January 2007, Acting State Comptroller Tom Sanzillo announced that he was declining to pay a bill Pataki submitted to the state to lease a private plane to fly to Virginia in December 2006. Acting Comptroller Sanzillo said Pataki could have used a state plane to make the trip. Pataki flew to Virginia on state business in order to inspect steel to be used in the Freedom Tower. The bill was forwarded to the Office of Gov. Eliot Spitzer for consideration. Spitzer's office ruled that Pataki's campaign committee needed to pay the bill for the private plane, since a state plane could have been used.[citation needed]


After leaving the governorship, Pataki joined the law firm Chadbourne & Parke in New York[17] joining their renewable energy practice. He continued to flirt with a possible bid for President. After ruling out a presidential campaign, Pataki retained his political action committee, which he could legally use to further his own views and other political interests. In addition, Pataki has formed an environmental consulting firm with his former chief of staff John Cahill, the Pataki-Cahill Group[18] and work with the Council on Foreign Relations on climate change issues. In the climate change issue, he is working with former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. He also serves as the Vice-Chairman of the board of directors for the American Security Council Foundation.

United Nations

In September 2007, President George W. Bush appointed Pataki as a United States delegate to the 2007 United Nations General Assembly session. In this capacity, Pataki attends various meetings of the UN General Assembly and GA committees on behalf of the United States, during the annual GA session. When he was appointed to the post, to which he was confirmed by the United States Senate, Pataki announced he was planning on focusing on climate change and terrorism issues while at the UN. The UN post lasts for the length of the annual GA session.

Governor George E. Pataki Leadership and Learning Center

The Governor George E. Pataki Leadership and Learning Center, located in Peekskill, New York, is designed to educate schoolchildren on government using Governor Pataki’s public service as an example.[19] Charles Gargano, Pataki's former economic development chief, led the effort to create the center.[20] On August 14, 2008 the New York Times announced that the center’s sponsors had “filed paperwork with the State Department of Education and are trying to raise $500,000 for a start-up fund so they can open the center in the fall.”[19] The center currently holds Governor Pataki’s official portrait, which will be moved to Albany at the end of 2009.[21] The center has three directors: David Catalfamo, the governor’s former communications chief; Kimberly Cappelleri, Libby Pataki’s former chief of staff; and, Amy Holden, former executive assistant to the governor.[22]

Possible 2010 U.S. Senate Bid

On February 19, 2009, AP News reported that Pataki had been approached by Sen. John Cornyn, head of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, about a possible run for the U.S. Senate, seat currently held by Kirsten Gillibrand, in 2010.[23] On November 4, 2009, George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC News "This Week", claimed "Pataki has told at least one major GOP donor in private that he is not interested in becoming a senator at the age of 64 and would rather run for president in 2012".[24] On November 5, the Queens Village Times reported:

At the state level, there is increasing speculation that former Republican Gov. George Pataki will be challenging U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who was appointed to fill out the term of now-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Several weeks ago Pataki...gave the impression of being a man beginning a serious political comeback. If that contest takes place, we will have a former three-term governor running for a U.S. Senate seat. ...Pataki will be running as the Republican and Conservative candidate in addition to possibly obtaining the nomination of the Independence Party.[25]

As late as March 2010, Pataki refused to confirm or deny his possible 2010 Senate candidacy, saying, "We'll see down the road".[26]

Possible 2012 Presidential Bid

In November 2009, Pataki traveled to Iowa, sparking speculation.[27]


  1. ^ "George Pataki, Regular Guy; Talks Big, Loves Clapton, Chows Down, Hoes Uphill". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  2. ^ a b c James Dao (1995-09-25). "In Hungary, Pataki Gets Treatment Of a Star". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  3. ^ "N. Y. Gov. George Pataki to deliver Class Day address". Yale Daily News. 2002-05-26. Retrieved 2006-04-21. 
  4. ^ "George Pataki Biography". Retrieved 2006-04-21. 
  5. ^ Revkin, Andrew. "Pataki's Chief Deal Maker Departs". New York Times. October 2, 1997.
  6. ^ "Michael C. Finnegan, Business Leader, Irish Recipient 1997". Ellis Island Medal of Honor. Retrieved on February 29, 2008.
  7. ^ Hernandez, Raymond. "Pataki's Counsel to Resign For Post at J. P. Morgan". New York Times. August 15, 1997.
  8. ^ "Deve Leip's Atlas of U. S. Presidential Elections".;return%20false. Retrieved 2007-01-02. 
  9. ^ "Rod Dreher on Andrew Cuomo on National Review Online". 2002-09-04. Retrieved 2010-03-16. 
  10. ^ GOOD RIDDANCE - New York Post
  11. ^ "The George Pataki Era". The New York Times. 2006-12-31. Retrieved 2007-01-02. 
  12. ^ a b Senate hopeful claims GOP bosses snubbed him. Albany Times-Union, February 25, 2004.
  13. ^ Major Parties to Anoint their Senate Combatants. Humbert, Mark. Associated Press, May 15, 2004.
  14. ^ "Summary of election results". Board of Elections in the City of New York. Retrieved 2008-03-12. 
  15. ^ "Text: Remarks by Gov. George Pataki at the Republican National Convention". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-06-18. 
  16. ^ the New York Daily News, February 22, 2006 page 5 "GOV HAS ANOTHER SURGERY. BLOCKAGE IN INTESTINES– PATAKI IS NOW AT HOSP IN CITY"
  17. ^ "New York: Albany: Pataki Joins Manhattan Law Firm". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-12. 
  18. ^ "The Pataki-Cahill Group". The Pataki-Cahill Group. Retrieved 2010-03-16. 
  19. ^ a b ""Well, a Pataki Center Would Play in Peekskill"". The New York Times. 2008-08-14. Retrieved 2009-01-17. 
  20. ^ ""By George! Collection for Pataki museum"". Daily News (New York). 2008-07-30. Retrieved 2009-01-17. 
  21. ^ ""Portrait hung in Peekskill on way to Capitol"". The Journal News. 2009-01-05. Retrieved 2009-01-17. 
  22. ^ ""Corporation established to create Pataki museum"". Buffalo News. 2008-07-24. Retrieved 2009-01-17. 
  23. ^ New York Post
  24. ^ "George's Bottom Line" by George Stephanopoulos, ABC News, November 4, 2009
  25. ^ "Political Action" by William Lewis, Queens Village Times, November 5, 2009
  26. ^ "Pataki Endorses Lazio In Governor's Race" by Michael Howard Saul, The Wall Street Journal, March 11, 2010, page A8
  27. ^ November 6, 2009 at 12:14 pm by Irene Jay Liu (2009-11-06). "DNC: Pataki’s 2012 aspirations the ‘best news … in a while’ - Capitol Confidential - New York Politics - - Albany NY". Retrieved 2010-03-16. 

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Fred J. Bianco, Jr.
Mayor of Peekskill, New York
Succeeded by
Richard E. Jackson
Preceded by
Mario Cuomo
Governor of New York
Succeeded by
Eliot Spitzer
New York Assembly
Preceded by
William J. Ryan
New York State Assembly, 91st District
Succeeded by
Vincent Leibell
New York State Senate
Preceded by
Mary Goodhue
New York State Senate, 37th District
Succeeded by
Vincent Leibell


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