Rudy's blues rock race

His wife cries and so do New York Republicans. Hillary keeps quiet while GOP wannabes start the replacement relay.

Published May 11, 2000 11:00AM (EDT)

Rudy Giuliani's revelation that he and his wife, Donna Hanover, will soon separate stunned the political world and threw the New York Senate race into chaos. The New York Post reports that at an emotional press conference, a dispirited Giuliani told reporters that his 16-year marriage was over. "I'm hopeful that we'll be able to formalize that in a ... in an agreement that protects our children, gives them all the security and all the protection they deserve and protects Donna," he said. Giuliani expressed ambivalence about the effects on his Senate ambitions, saying "I don't really care about politics right now."

The bombshell came a week after reports surfaced about a romance between Giuliani and Judith Nathan, whom the New York mayor has called a "very good friend." That surprise followed on the heels of Giuliani's late April disclosure that he suffers from prostate cancer.

A woman scorned

It wasn't just the public that was caught off guard by the mayor's proclamation. According to the New York Daily News, the mayor's wife was "blindsided" by Giuliani's announcement, and had believed that their relationship still had a fighting chance. "I had hoped to keep this marriage together," said a tearful Hanover at her own impromptu news conference. "Beginning last May, I began a major effort to bring us back together, and Rudy and I reestablished some of our personal intimacy through the fall," Hanover told reporters. "At that point, he chose another path." Hanover went on to blame Giuliani's pattern of adultery for their marital strife. "For several years, it was difficult to participate in Rudy's public life because of his relationship with one staff member," she said. Rumors have been swirling for years that Giuliani had had an affair with his former communications director, Cristyne Lategano, though both denied the charges.

Hanover's friends joined her in condemning the mayor's behavior. "She has never given up on him, until this latest episode [with Nathan]," said a friend, who asked not to be identified. "He was trying to live some kind of Old World life, seeing people on the side at will."

Republicans reel from Rudy shocker

Few Republicans are staying on Giuliani's side, the New York Daily News reports. Though the mayor's aides assert that their man will still run, many New York Republicans think that Giuliani has run out of chances. "For the first time, I really wouldn't be surprised if Rudy doesn't run," said former New York Sen. Alfonse D'Amato. Veteran GOP strategist Ed Rollins also thinks the latest revelation will prove fatal to Giuliani's Senate hopes. "This can't help him," Rollins said. "There's a certain segment of Catholics [Giuliani is Catholic] who will have second thoughts about him now. Any little thing in a race that will come down to a couple of points is a problem." New York Republican watcher Jay Severin agrees. In comments to the Associated Press, Severin remarked that Giuliani's latest announcement can only help Hillary Rodham Clinton. Politics, he explained, "is a zero-sum game. Nothing bad happens to one candidate that doesn't benefit another."

Hillary holds her fire

Whatever "benefit" Giuliani's problems may bring her, the New York Daily News reports that the first lady had nothing to say about the issue. "I'm just going to keep doing what I've been doing," she told reporters, "talking about issues and ideas that I think matter to the lives of New Yorkers." Others in her party, however, have spoken up. Jim Jordan, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, blasted Giuliani for "running a statewide ad about his integrity as he is very publicly humiliating his wife and children ... I think he's losing his marbles." Former New York Mayor Ed Koch said that if Giuliani persists in the race, "he'll get creamed."

GOP plots Plan B

Would-be replacements started lining up when Giuliani first divulged his cancer diagnosis. Now, according to the New York Times, two aspirants with limited electoral experience will step up their efforts to win the GOP slot. Rep. Rick Lazio, a Long Island congressman, has wanted to be New York's Republican Senate candidate from the beginning and has consistently challenged Giuliani's pro-choice, pro-gay-rights views despite repeated warnings from party officials to keep quiet. In addition to his good relationship with New York's influential Conservative Party, Lazio's low-key, likable personality is deemed an advantage, making him less of a divisive figure -- and thus a less inviting target for Hillary Clinton's attacks -- than Giuliani has been. Lazio's liabilities are low name recognition, lack of funds and stands on social issues that fall to the right of the views of many New Yorkers.

The second prospect cited by the New York Times is Wall Street businessman Theodore J. Forstmann, an investor turned philanthropist who personally financed a program to help poor children attend private schools. His great asset is, well, his great assets. Republican leaders are happy with Forstmann's willingness to finance his own campaign, and his interest in assisting poor children could neutralize one of the first lady's strengths. Drawbacks to a Forstmann candidacy are low name recognition and lack of a political record.

New York Gov. George Pataki, widely thought to be the best alternative to Giuliani, has said he has no desire to join the Senate race.

Poll positions

Presidential race (previous):

  • Bush 51 to Gore 43 (Los Angeles Times May 4-7).

  • Bush 46 to Gore 41 (NBC/Wall Street Journal April 29-May 1).

  • Bush 49 to Gore 44 (Gallup/CNN/USA Today April 28-30).

  • Bush 47 to Gore 38 (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll April 26-27).

  • Bush 43 to Gore 41 (CBS News April 15-17).

  • Bush 44 to Gore 42 (Newsweek April 13-14).

    Vice presidential preferences (previous):

    Preferences for Republican vice presidential candidate among Republican voters (NBC/Wall Street Journal April 29-May 1):

  • Colin Powell, 39 percent
  • Elizabeth Dole, 19 percent
  • John McCain, 18 percent
  • Christine Todd Whitman, 5 percent
  • Fred Thompson, 6 percent
  • John Kaisch, 4 percent
  • Tom Ridge, 3 percent
  • Other, 1 percent
  • Not sure, 5 percent

    Preferences for Democratic vice presidential candidate among all voters (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll March 22-23):

  • Bill Bradley, 27 percent
  • Dianne Feinstein, 10 percent
  • Bob Kerrey, 6 percent
  • Bob Graham, 5 percent
  • John Kerry, 4 percent
  • Bill Richardson, 4 percent
  • Evan Bayh, 3 percent
  • Other, 6 percent
  • Not sure, 35 percent

    New York Senate:

  • Clinton 46 to Giuliani 44 (Quinnipiac College April 24-30).

  • Clinton 43 to Giuliani 43 (Zogby April 28-29).

  • Clinton 52 to Giuliani 42 (New York Times/CBS News April 1-5).

  • Giuliani 46 to Clinton 43 (Marist Institute March 27-28).

    On the trail

    Bush: Texas.

    Gore: California.

    Talking heads

    (All guests tentative and all EST)

  • C-Span's "Washington Journal":

    7 a.m. -- Open phones with morning newspaper articles and a telephone interview with Ben Pershing, staff writer, Roll Call.

    8:15 a.m. -- Marilyn Whirry, National Teacher of the Year.

    9 a.m. -- Open phones.

    9:15 a.m. -- Rosalyn Millman, acting director, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

    Watch "Washington Journal" on the Web.

    Sound off

    E-mail Trail Mix with your comments, suggestions and tips at

  • By Alicia Montgomery

    Alicia Montgomery is an associate editor in Salon's Washington bureau.

    MORE FROM Alicia Montgomery

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