The small but influential New York Conservative Party is not ready to back billionaire Donald Trump for the GOP nomination, says its longtime state chairman Mike Long.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax, Long, who had led the party founded by William F. Buckley Jr. since 1988, said that the divisions among its state executive committee led the Conservatives to decide to stay out of the GOP primary battle.
“Remember we had 17 candidates when this started, so there was a big division among our state committee as to a favorite,” Long recalled, “At our executive committee in February, we decided [the Conservative Party] was so divided that we couldn’t have an impact.”
He said the party will decide in September which candidate’s name will appear on its “Row C” ballot line directly below that of the Democratic and Republican Parties. The Conservative Party nod is key to any chance of a Republican victory statewide, and its endorsement can put a Republican over the top in a contested primary.
According to Long, Conservative Party activists split “pretty evenly” between Cruz and Donald Trump, with a handful of them backing Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
He quickly added that “if the race were between, let’s say Ted Cruz and Chris Christie, well, yes, our endorsement would mean something now. But we’re staying out of the primary here [April 19] and will decide who gets our ballot line in September.”
Founded in 1962, the Conservative Party was blocked by then-Gov. and liberal Republican Nelson Rockefeller from giving its ballot line to its hero Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election.
Since 1972, however, New York Conservatives have unfailingly given their ballot line—now “Row C” and third on the state ballot—to the Republican nominee.
Because New York is one of five states in which nominees of one party can have votes counted for them as the nominee of another, the New York Conservative blessing is one Republicans have long sought and benefited.
Republican George Pataki, for example, won all three of his terms as governor with extra votes from the Conservative ballot line. Former Sen. Al D’Amato won three terms beginning in 1980 with the Conservative line, and, with the exception of liberal Republican former Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (who retired in 2006), every Republican elected to Congress from the Empire State since the 1970’s has also carried the Conservative line.
In 1965, the late William F. Buckley, Jr. gave the fledgling Conservative Party nationwide attention by running as its candidate for mayor of New York.
Five years later, his brother James Buckley was actually elected U.S. Senator from New York in a three-way race running solely on the Conservative line.
Today, the publication Buckley founded, the conservative National Review, has come out strongly against Donald Trump, saying he is not a Reaganite.
Despite broad support in New York state, the Conservative Party’s failure to rally around Trump may signal significant problems ahead for the GOP front-runner.
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