Rochester billionaire Thomas Golisano, the Independence Party candidate for governor, is expected to launch a massive campaign targeting the Jewish community as the election enters the home stretch, The Jewish Week has learned.
“We have on the drawing board a specific outreach operation including phone calls, mailings and personal visits,” said Golisano’s campaign chairman, Steve Pidgeon.
Golisano, the founder of Paychex Inc., is financing his own campaign and is expected to spend up to $1 million per day at its conclusion. He hopes to capitalize on the estimated 5 percent to 10 percent of Jewish voters who have not decided to support Republican George Pataki or Democrat Carl McCall.
Coordinating the Jewish effort will be Noach Dear, the Orthodox politician who represented Borough Park, Brooklyn, for 20 years in the City Council until last year. Dear is a candidate for state Senate on the Conservative Party ballot, but he suspended his campaign after losing the Democratic primary last month.
Pidgeon would not comment Tuesday on what talking points Golisano would be using to gain Jewish support, other than to say that he is “a strong supporter of the State of Israel and has been following the Mideast peace process and is concerned.” Pidgeon said Golisano supported continued investment of New York pension funds in Israel Bonds.
Golisano, who has focused his campaign on attacking Pataki, has yet to articulate an issue of specific concern to Jews in this race, or in his previous two bids for governor, other than to call on the governor to renounce the support of radical black activist Lenora Fulani, who has been accused of anti-Semitism.
Fulani is an activist in the Independence Party who supported Pataki for the Independence nomination. Golisano beat Pataki in September’s primary to win the nomination and has denounced Fulani.
Political consultant Mickey Blum said Golisano has been trailing his two main rivals in Jewish support.
“That’s probably his worst group,” she said, adding that an increase would probably be at the expense of Pataki. “In general, [Golisano] usually takes a bit more from Pataki than he does from McCall. He attracts more conservative voters. One would think the liberal Jewish voters would stay with McCall.”