New York, NY —Independence Party founder Tom Golisano is running for Governor of New York against the incumbent - Republican George Pataki - and Democrat Carl McCall. It is Golisano's third try. WNYC's Allison Keyes profiles the billionaire businessman.
Tom Golisano -- the son of Italian immigrants -- is bonding with voters at a bowling alley in Jackson Heights, Queens.
Voter: I'm from Italy -- I'm here forty years and 99 percent you got my vote. You get 100% if you bowl good tonight.
Tom: Tough competition but I'll do alright.
Golisano has been on the campaign trail since May first. In his self-financed campaign, he's already spent almost 40 million dollars. Until recently - most of his contact with voters had been through radio, newspaper and television ads.
Consequently - some people - especially in New York City - still aren't quite sure who he is.
He's running for governor .. golisanto or something. I've seen his commercials.
Golisano is better known in the Rochester area. He founded his multi-billion dollar payroll company Paychex here. At the upscale Eastview mall in Victor, everybody knows his name, and his reputation.
Golisano I was leaning toward only because he's from Rochester and I love what he's done for Paychex and the economy here.
But some are skeptical of his ability to run the state.
I like what he's done for business and jobs here - but I wouldn't vote for him for Governor.
Over on Park Avenue in Rochester, National Guardsman Ron Martin says for him, if a candidate has the right views on guns - he's probably right on all the other issues.
Golisano is the man. Why? Because he's pro gun - 100% pro gun.
George works at the Big Apple Caf and thinks it is time for a change in state leadership.
Golisano I'd like to see given a chance to do the job to see if a businessman could do things differently than a politician which I think Pataki is"
If you ask the candidate himself - his experience as a businessman is one of the top reasons he would be a good choice for Governor, because he says he is a problem solver.
I realize when entrepreneurs get into the political world - there are lessons learned. I mean it's not the same thing as being in business, but there are so many commonalties that are so applicable.
Golisano says high taxes have created a negative financial atmosphere in this state - which is costing us jobs. He also says New York hasn't done a good job with education.
The dollars and resources are there. What's not there - particularly in our urban areas - is we haven't come up with the right formulas and the right solution to improve test scores and character development.
Golisano has a plan to divert 1.7 billion dollars in lottery money to his proposed Opportunity Scholarship Program. High school students with a B' average would be able to get full tuition coverage at public state universities - or $4500 towards tuition at private schools in state.
The Independence part candidate clearly isn't afraid to say things you wouldn't expect to hear from a politician who's running for state office.
What we have to go through in airports today is really tough. Anyone who travels for business complains that it adds hours to their trip - it has attacked their psyche - I mean they look at your shoes. Sometimes I wonder if we don't go a little too far.
The latest Quinnipiac University poll shows Golisano as getting about 18% of the vote. Although he's clearly not a front runner - he does have the political weight to pull votes from the other candidates.
I would think his candidacy would hurt Pataki more than McCall.
Dr. Sarah Leibshutz - is a political science professor at the University of Rochester. A recent poll - from New York 1 News and Newsday, shows that 52% of the voters who say they'll pull the lever for Golisano would vote for Pataki if Golisano weren't in the race. Just 24% say they would chose McCall. But Golisano scoffs at those who have painted him as a spoiler who is in the race to help Democrats.
Do you really think I would spend all this money and time to help a Democrat? Or a Republican? Obviously not.
Leibshutz says the chances of Golisano winning this race are small - mostly because he is NOT a member of the two major parties.
The fact that Golisano is running on an independent party ticket - and as someone independent from government - also says he's independent of interest groups. Interest groups can activate workers and voters - and so without that support - it is hard to imagine a third party candidate winning in New York.
Despite polls showing him trailing 18% statewide to 31 percent for McCall and 47% for Pataki - Golisano insists he can still win. Golisano sees himself as a contender - and has said he's willing to spend up to $100 million dollars on this campaign.