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December 05, 2005

Italian husbands

This has to be one of the funniest political stories ever.

Jeanine Pirro, Westchester County DA, who's the Republican senatorial candidate in New York challenging Hillary, has recently been the target of a Republican campaign to withdraw and run for Attorney General instead. The New York Post has discovered who's secretly behind this campaign to get her to withdraw . . . .

Pirro's husband Al.

December 5, 2005 -- Jeanine Pirro's own husband is working against her in her bid for the U.S. Senate, sneaking around behind her back to lobby a state Republican leader to get her to drop out of the race, sources told The Post.

Gov. Pataki also was part of the extraordinary plot to get the Westchester County DA — whom he endorsed for the race before becoming convinced she wasn't up to the effort — to throw in the towel and run for attorney general, not for Senate against Hillary Rodham Clinton, The Post has learned.

The stunning effort to convince Jeanine Pirro to drop out began after "Albert Pirro asked [state Senate Majority Leader Joseph] Bruno to do it," a Pataki aide said.

A source close to Bruno said Albert Pirro had actually relayed his views to Steve Boggess, secretary of the Senate and a key Bruno political aide.

Either way, Al Pirro's move was without his wife's knowledge, amazed sources said.

Pirro has long been a joke in my mind, because 20 years ago, when I was living in New York State, and she was an assistant D.A., she had a short-lived candidacy for lieutenant governor.

In 1986, Mario Cuomo was running for a second term, and the Republican nominee was Andrew O'Rourke, the totally undistinguished Westchester County Executive, who ran a pathetic campaign for governor and, if memory serves, won less than 40% of the vote in what was not yet a Democratic stronghold. To give you an idea of just how laughable his campaign was, the day after he announced his candidacy, he issued his first public-policy pronouncement: clemency for Jean Harris (who murdered her boyfriend, Herman Tarnower, the Scarsdale Diet doctor). Apparently, Cuomo later granted her clemency, but at least it wasn't the first thing he did as governor.

Another of O'Rourke's boneheaded moves was picking Jeanine Pirro to run with him. It was, as I recall, about a week after the announcement that a major public flap erupted about whether her husband would divulge his financial information. He wouldn't, and Jeanine Pirro withdrew from the race.

At the press conference at which she announced her withdrawal, someone asked her whether she saw any parallel with the situation of Geraldine Ferraro. For those of you who are too young to remember, Ferraro, a congresswoman from Queens and Walter Mondale's VP candidate in 1984, toughed out an inquiry about disclosure of her husband's finances shortly after Mondale picked her.

For a Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, even one who was dropping out of the race, the question about Ferraro was like a hanging curve ball, just waiting to get this kind of answer: There's a superficial similarity, but at least when my husband wouldn't release his records, I did the ethical thing and withdrew.

So what did Jeanine Pirro actually say in response to the Ferraro question? I'm quoting from memory, but it went much like this: "Yes, there's a similarity. We both have Italian husbands."