Giuliani drops out of Senate race to focus on cancer treatment

Lazio seeks nomination

May 20, 2000 - Mike Ferullo - CNN

NEW YORK (CNN) -- New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani ended weeks of speculation about his political future Friday by announcing he will not run for the U.S. Senate against first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

At a news conference at City Hall, Giuliani said he would focus his efforts on fighting his recently diagnosed prostate cancer.

"This is not the right time for me to run for office," said Giuliani, ending his Senate bid before it ever officially began. After receiving a rousing round of applause, he told those at the hastily assembled City Hall news conference that he has not yet decided on a treatment option for his cancer.

"I've decided that what I should do is to put my health first and that I should devote the focus and attention that I should to be able to figure out the best treatment," he said.

The New York mayor first raised the possibility that he may abandon his Senate plans during an April 27 announcement that he had early-stage prostate cancer. Giuliani said Friday that choosing a treatment option has proved much more difficult than expected, and that he was confident dropping his Senate bid was the right choice.

"I believe that this is the right decision and I think that somehow, somewhere, some way, this is all for the best," Giuliani said.

He downplayed speculation that his decision may have been influenced by his recent announcement that he would leave his wife of 16 years amid reports romantically linking him with other women.

The mayor had promised to make his decision at least a week before the GOP state convention on May 30 in Buffalo, allowing Republicans the opportunity to find a replacement candidate.

Giuliani said Friday he called a number a top Republicans in New York and Albany, most notably state GOP Chairman Bill Powers and Gov. George Pataki. Powers immediately began coordinating efforts to find a replacement for Giuliani and appears to be backing Rep. Rick Lazio (R-New York).

Lazio's decision

Lazio, who represents part of Long Island, issued a statement after Giuliani's news conference saying he would seek the office. He is a moderate Republican who has at least $3 million in campaign funds already on hand.

"I called Rick Lazio and told him that if he's the candidate of the party he can count on my help," said Giuliani, who acknowledged receiving growing pressure from state Republicans, as well from anxious reporters, to reach a decision.

Giuliani's reported options for prostate cancer treatment include surgery, external beam radiation and radioactive seed implantation. He has admitted that his decision-making process was "interrupted by other factors," referring to the media attention swirling around his impending marital separation.

"I don't feel that if I take on the commitment to run, that I have the kind of confidence that I should have, that I'd be the candidate I should be," he said, expressing concern over whether he would be able to keep up with the rigors of campaign life into August and September.

First lady calls Giuliani

Mrs. Clinton, now a former rival, spoke with Giuliani shortly after the news conference. "I called him at the conclusion of his announcement to wish him well, to tell him that I knew this was a difficult decision and I certainly hope and pray, as I know all New Yorkers do, that he will have a full and speedy recovery," the first lady said.

The two-term mayor and former U.S. attorney revealed a more reflective side of himself during the press conference, telling reporters that news of his medical condition forced him to come to grips with his "mortality and humanity."

His candidacy for the Senate suffered another blow this month after he announced he was separating from his wife of 16 years, Donna Hanover, after details were revealed of his relationship with another woman, Judith Nathan.

Stung by the revelation, Hanover held her own news conference later that same day and accused Giuliani of having had a relationship for several years with his former communications director, Christyne Lategano.

Despite such revelations, Giuliani remained deadlocked with the first lady in many statewide polls. His departure from the Senate race comes as a surprise to many, given his reputation as a tough-talking and ambitious candidate.

"I'm surprised, I thought he was going to go ... but I certainly understand it," said Rep. Peter King, who also indicated Friday that he was interested in seeking the GOP Senate nomination. He faces an uphill battle against Lazio, regarded by many as the "favorite son" candidate of the state GOP leadership.

The Clinton campaign already appears to be gearing up for a Senate contest against Lazio, known as an energetic and tough candidate. CNN's Frank Sesno reported Friday that state Democrats plan to label Lazio as a "classic Gingrich lieutenant."

Lazio considered a moderate

First elected to the House in 1992, Lazio was an early supporter of controversial Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and also voted to impeach the president in 1998.

But the Long Island congressman is also regarded by many others as a moderate Republican for his mixed record on abortion rights and for his support of gun-control legislation.

Pataki, once mentioned as a possible opponent to Clinton, will endorse Lazio's expected Senate candidacy on Sunday, CNN has learned. Pataki strongly signaled this week that he plans to run for a third term as the state's governor.

King, considered a GOP party maverick, represents a Long Island district adjacent to Lazio's.

"I would have a more conservative voting record than Congressman Lazio," said King, an ardent opponent of abortion rights. "I have far more foreign policy experience than Congressman Lazio."

Although he's the early GOP favorite, Lazio has slightly more than $3 million in campaign funds on hand, far less than the $12 million the first lady has amassed in her campaign coffers.

Although Giuliani is not permitted by law to transfer his campaign's impressive $19 million war chest to Lazio or any other GOP Senate candidate, he can hand the money over to the state Republican party.

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