(Part of UPI's Special Report on Election 2002)
ALBANY, N.Y. (UPI) -- Most had expected New York Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, would not have a competitive race for his third term, despite Democrats outnumbering the GOP by 5 to 3. But billionaire Thomas Golisano has injected some uncertainty.
Golisano, of Rochester, N.Y., the founder of Paychex, a payroll service, has spent $$@$!40 million trying to get elected as an independent, and he's expected to spend another $$@$!4.4 million every week until the election.
Polls indicate Golisano is favored by between 10 and 14 percent of voters and that he takes almost an equal amount of voters from Pataki and the Democratic nominee State Comptroller H. Carl McCall.
But his ads that focus on high taxes, special interests and the loss of 300,000 jobs target Pataki.
Golisano ran for governor in 1994 on the Independence ticket and again in 1998, getting about 350,000 votes of the 5 million cast.
However, this year Pataki was chosen by the Independence Party so Golisano had to challenge him in a primary for the Conservative and Independence tickets.
Golisano lost the Conservative primary but won back the Independence slate giving Pataki his first electoral defeat.
Third Party tickets are important in New York because candidates can add to their tally by appearing on additional ballot lines.
The more Golisano attack ads resonate with upstate voters, Pataki's Republican base, the better for Democrats.
"We love Golisano, the better he does, the better chance Carl (McCall) has," Assemblyman Alexander "Pete" Grannis, a Democrat, told United Press International.
Polls have Pataki 9 points to 17 points ahead of McCall and considering the three-point margin of error, Democrats were energized that they may have a real race after all.
However, in October McCall's campaign started to deteriorate. The New York Post found a letter written on the comptroller's letterhead seeking a job for his daughter.
The next day another letter had McCall seeking a job for his cousin and in the end, he acknowledged he wrote 58 similar letters to firms he dealt with as sole administrator of the $$@$!112 billion state pension fund.
McCall lost his momentum and with only $$@$!1.1 million left in his campaign fund after a primary against former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Andrew Cuomo, he's had to focus on fundraising.
Meanwhile, Pataki, who raised $$@$!27 million and has $$@$!12.2 million left, continued to accumulate union endorsements. McCall was left to respond repeatedly, "They must have made a deal."
According to the GOP campaign, 1 million unionized workers support Pataki.
Both candidates are vague on how they would deal with a $$@$!6 to $$@$!10 billion deficit as a result of the attacks on the World Trade Center.
In a televised debate, McCall said the state would have to "grow its way out," while Pataki said it would take "restructuring," something he did when he inherited a $$@$!5 billion deficit after his election in 1994.
There has been little mention of Sept. 11 since before the primaries, when Democratic contender Andrew Cuomo accused Pataki of "holding Giuliani's coat," referring to the popular Mayor of New York City, Rudolph Giuliani. That remark backfired and was among the reasons Cuomo dropped out of the race.