Former NY GOP governor Pataki will run for president in 2016

George Pataki Announces Presidential Run

EXETER, N.H. (AP) -- George Pataki, the 9/11-era New York governor who achieved electoral success as a Republican in a heavily Democratic state, announced his candidacy for the presidential nomination Thursday, offering himself as a unifying figure in a divided nation.

Just as he was overshadowed after the 2001 terrorist attacks by Mayor Rudy Giuliani in New York City and President George W. Bush, Pataki opened his 2016 campaign in the shadow of better known rivals. Out of office since 2006, he's a clear underdog in a bustling pack of favorites and longshots.

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Former NY GOP governor Pataki will run for president in 2016
George Pataki, former governor of New York and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, waves on stage at the start of the Republican presidential candidate debate at The Venetian in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. With less than two months remaining before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses and the Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary, middle-of-the-pack candidates hoping for a late surge in the polls have little choice but to come out swinging in tonight's fifth Republican debate. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Republican Presidential hopeful George Pataki, former Governor of New York, speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington, DC, December 3, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - MAY 16: Former New York Governor George Pataki speaks to guests gathered for the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner at the Iowa Events Center on May 16, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. The event sponsored by the Republican Party of Iowa gave several Republican presidential hopefuls an opportunity to strengthen their support among Iowa Republicans ahead of the 2016 Iowa caucus. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Former New York Governor George Pataki speaks at the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) 2015 Alfred K. Whitehead Legislative Conference and Presidential Forum in Washington, DC, March 10, 2015. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
GREENVILLE, SC - MAY 09: Former New York Governor George Pataki speaks at the Freedom Summit on May 9, 2015 in Greenville, South Carolina. Pataki joined eleven other potential candidates in addressing the event hosted by conservative group Citizens United. (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - MARCH 07: Former Gov. George Pataki of New York fields questions from Bruce Rastetter at the Iowa Ag Summit on March 7, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. The event allows the invited speakers, many of whom are potential 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls, to outline their views on agricultural issue. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 15: Former New York Gov. George Pataki speaks during the dedication ceremony in Foundation Hall at the National September 11 Memorial Museum at ground zero May 15, 2014 in New York City. The museum spans seven stories, mostly underground, and contains artifacts from the attack on the World Trade Center Towers on September 11, 2001 that include the 80-foot high tridents, the so-called 'Ground Zero Cross,' the destroyed remains of Company 21's New York Fire Department Engine as well as smaller items such as letter that fell from a hijacked plane and posters of missing loved ones projected onto the wall of the museum. The museum will open to the public on May 21. (Photo by Richard Drew-Pool/Getty Images)
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Pataki told about 150 supporters that an increasingly intrusive government is jeopardizing the freedoms past generations fought for, and he will fight to get government out of people's way.

"It is to preserve and protect that freedom that this morning I announce I'm a candidate for the Republican nomination for president of the United States," he said.

The low-key Republican moderate flirted with presidential runs in 2008 and 2012 but stopped short. Now he hopes to reignite the bipartisan unity born in the trauma of 2001.

"While I saw the horrors of September 11 first hand, in the days, weeks and months that followed, I also saw the strength of America on display," he said. And "I completely reject the idea that we can only come together in adversity."

Pataki said Americans, with a government that does not restrain freedom, "will once again astonish the world with what we can accomplish."

Political comity is a tall order in a nation - and a party - fraught with division. But Pataki invokes his record working with Republicans and Democrats alike as a three-term governor who in 1994 defeated Mario Cuomo, the liberal stalwart and celebrated orator many Democrats wanted to see run for president.

Pataki, 69, declared his candidacy in a YouTube video, set in a New York skyscraper, and his rhetoric seemed to echo sentiments of the 9/11 aftermath. "We are all in this together," he said. "And let us all understand that what unites us is so much more important than what might seem superficially to divide us."

Without Bush's bullhorn or Giuliani's in-your-face crisis management and eloquence, Pataki worked solidly with them to steady a devastated city. He quickly mobilized New York Army and Air National Guard troops. By the evening of Sept. 11, 750 troops had already reported to armories in New York City to support the massive security and rescue efforts.

As governor, he said, "My vision was not a partisan vision, it was a vision about people, about what we could accomplish together."

He's been a frequent visitor to New Hampshire and set his announcement event in Exeter because it was the state capital during the Revolutionary War and claims to be the birthplace of the Republican Party.

Despite his centrist leanings, he's spent recent months promoting his conservative credentials, as those running for the Republican nomination invariably do.

Presidential Candidates | InsideGov

He's campaigned against President Barack Obama's health care law and Obama's executive order to offer protections against deportation to millions of immigrants living in the country illegally. In his announcement speech, he criticized Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton for claiming to represent aspirations of the middle class.

"We are the party of the middle class, unless by middle class they mean someone who left the White House dead broke and 10 years later had $100 million," he said of Bill and Hillary Clinton. "That's their party's candidate. She speaks for the middle class? They are the party of privilege."

Pataki didn't directly compare himself with other GOP rivals. But his wife, Libby, acknowledged the challenge her husband faces in a field that includes sitting senators, several current and former governors, business leaders and a renowned neurosurgeon.

"Are we prepared for a struggle and an uphill battle?" she asked. "We are absolutely prepared to enter the fray and fight the good fight."

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