Steinhauser: Pataki makes moves towards 2016 GOP bid; criticizes Indiana law
CONCORD - George Pataki's taking a big step towards running for the White House.
The former three-term New York governor, who's seriously considering a bid for the GOP presidential nomination, Thursday announced the initial members of a New Hampshire Steering Committee for his political action committee, the We the People, not Washington PAC. And Pataki also opened up office space in Manchester for his PAC.
And unlike many of his potential rivals for the Republican nomination, Pataki took a firm stand against Indiana's controversial religious freedom law, saying "I don't think any private business should be able to discriminate against people because they might be gay."
And he was critical of some of the GOP presidential contenders who've strongly supported the measure.
Since last November's midterm elections, Pataki's made more visits to the first-in-the-nation primary state than any of the other likely Republican White House hopefuls. But for the first time, Pataki took concrete steps towards launching a campaign.
"We're taking a couple of more significant steps. We're opening an office on Lowell Street in Manchester right across from the Red Arrow and we announced a steering committee for our PAC, including two Republican state senators, a former state senator, some local officials and community leaders, and I'm pleased to have so many people who are joining the cause to get the message out," Pataki said in a one-on-one interview Thursday morning with NH1 News.
The two state senators are John Reagan and Nancy Stiles. They are the first of the 14 Republican state senators in New Hampshire to back someone in the hunt for the 2016 presidential nomination.
If he runs, Pataki will be a longshot to win the nomination. He's been out of office for nine years, lacks national name recognition, and is already witnessing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie poaching into his New York based donors.
"I understand I have a long uphill fight to even become the Republican nominee," he acknowledged.
But Pataki added that "I've always had long uphill fights. I did when I ran in New York against Mario Cuomo. No one thought I could run."
Pataki counter-programs on Indiana law
Pataki was happy to discuss Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The law has set off a national controversy, with critics and even some supporters saying the measure would allow businesses to deny service to lesbian and gay customers if that service would offend their religious beliefs. Many businesses, organizations, politicians and many celebrities have slammed the law, with some of them cancelling events or business in Indiana.
Lawmakers in Indianapolis are now working to "fix" the measure. And Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas changed course, vowing not to sign a similar measure in his state until it's altered.
Pataki said the "the fact that my party has always represented freedom for all Americans is one of the reasons I joined the Republican Party and have been so proud to be a part of the Republican Party. I think today in the 21st Century we have to continue to be a party that is against discrimination, against discrimination on any basis, certainly on sexual orientation and I don't think any private business should be able to discriminate against people because they might be gay and it's just a very simple philosophy. We're all Americans. We're all in this together."
Asked if he's concerned that his opposition to the Indiana law could hurt his nomination chances with social conservative voters, who are very influential in the GOP primaries and caucuses,
Pataki responded "you can't worry about it. And you believe what you believe and I think the American people want someone who's going to be honest with them and tell them what they feel."
Pataki then took a not so veiled shot at some of the GOP presidential contenders who've come out in support of the Indiana measure.
"It's disappointing to me some Republicans who were so supportive of the law and then the next day to a different crowd they were saying ‘well maybe they should change the law'. And then Gov. Hutchinson of Arkansas, actually a friend of mine, vetoed a similar law, and so now they're rethinking. You shouldn't need a poll. You shouldn't' need a consultant. Either you believe something is right or not. And in my case human rights, dignity, non-discrimination, for every American is just something I deeply believe as a Republican," Pataki said.
More retail for Pataki
After speaking with NH1 News, Pataki headed out on a two-day swing through northern New Hampshire, which will include retail stops in Littleton, Whitefield and Lancaster.
Pataki believes that the Granite State's tradition of retail politics levels the playing field for a longshot like him.
"One of the things that's terrific about New Hampshire being the first primary is that it's so retail. People want to meet you. They want to shake your hand. They want to sit down across the coffee table and not just listen to what you have to say but have you listen to what they they're saying. And I think that's the best type of politics," Pataki said recently.
Last month, at a Saint Patrick's Day breakfast and roast in Nashua, Pataki made fun of himself, saying "it's hard for me to be funny this early in the morning. Actually it's hard for me to be funny anytime."
And Pataki, who's flirted with running for the White House a couple of times in the past, added that Donald Trump, who's also once again considering a presidential bid, is "the only person in America who has flirted with running for president longer than I have."