George Pataki is the real McCoy. He’s a small-town boy from Peekskill, New York, where his family’s immigrant background and farming life shaped his down-to-earth politics. A second-generation American with roots in Hungary, Italy, and Ireland, Pataki has retained a common touch that his Yale and Columbia educations haven’t changed. He finally followed a lifelong dream of entering public service when he left a corporate law firm to join a Senate task force on the reorganization of the court system.
In 1982 Pataki became mayor of his hometown, and in 1994 he stunned New York’s political world by defeating Mario Cuomo in the gubernatorial election. Suddenly George who? became a GOP power broker. He’ll give readers the inside story of his incredible upset victory and bring us into the governor’s mansion to show the day-to-day job of running the diverse state of New York–the issues it raises, the choices he makes, the beliefs that determine how he governs. Told with warmth and wry humor, the governor’s story shows that winning politics can still come from a simple source–straight from the heart.
Governor Pataki began as Mayor of his hometown of Peekskill, New York, before going on to serve as both a New York State Assemblyman, State Senator and eventually serving three terms as the 53rd Governor of New York State, ending in 2007. George Pataki’s path to the New York State Governor’s office was the result of a stunning electoral upset, one in which he unseated the nationally known three-term governor – the late Governor Mario Cuomo. Pataki had to win in not only a deep-blue state against the odds, but also had to go up against an incumbent with not only more money and name recognition, but who was also a national liberal icon.
The odds weren’t in Pataki’s favor, to say the least; Pataki was trailing by 17 points with just two weeks until Election Day. Crisscrossing the state, Pataki made the case for tax cuts, welfare reform and restoring the death penalty, connecting with voters and closing the gap. When he pulled off his improbable victory, Pataki took office and went to work delivering on those promises. Pataki asserted that big government and taxes were strangling the private sector economy. New York was dead last in the creation of private sector jobs. Pataki vowed to get to work, restoring his state as the Empire State a place of opportunity and innovation.
During his tenure as governor, George Pataki demonstrated a clear and decisive vision as a leader, matched with a willingness to build consensus and work with lawmakers from across the political spectrum. Recognizing New York’s growing and influential Hispanic population, Pataki learned Spanish and actively reached out and won support from this traditionally democratic but culturally conservative community.
To most Americans, Governor Pataki is best known for his leadership during those dark days after September 11th. While much is known about his successful partnership with Mayor Giuliani in the immediate response to the attacks, less is known about the long, hard and emotional process of rebuilding. Through smart and unwavering leadership, Governor Pataki was instrumental in the reconstruction of Lower Manhattan, the renewal of confidence, and in the recovery of the economy in the months and years following the terror attacks of September 11. Governor Pataki was committed to rebuilding and maintaining Lower Manhattan as the financial capital of the world, while also remembering and honoring those brave Americans and New Yorkers who had given their lives for freedom. As chair of the Ground Zero committee, he bravely disputed the committee’s recommendations as not properly honoring the people who had sacrificed their lives. He was widely criticized for this until the final memorial was completed, a site for which he is now hailed as a visionary.
George Pataki has been married to his wife, Elizabeth, for 41 years. He is currently the President of his own small business, The Pataki-Cahill group that works in energy, infrastructure, clean-tech. He is also of Counsel at Chadbourne & Parke LLP.