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Friday, March 1, 1996
Page A5

Race is On in NY

It's a 3-way primary:
Dole, Forbes Buchanan

By Michael Arena

It's a three-way horse race now.

After months of backroom squabbling and courtroom jostling, conservative commentator Pat Buchanan yesterday claimed a bigger stake in Thursday's New York Republican presidential primary, winning the right to run in 23 congressional districts, containing the core of the state's GOP voters.

Buchanan joins publisher Steve Forbes, who scored a federal appeals court victory Wednesday that places him on the ballot in all 31 congressional districts against Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, the choice of Sen. Alfonse D'Amato and the state Republican organization.

The Dole camp, faced with the prospect of a similar loss in court to Buchanan and generating more ill will among voters, called off their legal challenges yesterday and agreed to let Buchanan appear on the ballot in all districts where his supporters filed nominating petitions.

The agreement means Buchanan's name will show up on ballots covering 87 percent of the GOP enrollment statewide. Buchanan will be on the ballot in three of five districts on Long Island and four districts in Queens. The primary once expected to be a Dole lovefest will now become a costly, bitterly fought battle for 93 of the state's 102 delegates to the Republican National Convention. Nine delegates are appointed by the chairman of the state GOP committee.

"He now has the opportunity to bring his message to voters," said John Klotz, Buchanan's attorney. "That's all we've been asking."

Dole supporters said they preferred to concentrate on the campaign and to put the ballot fights behind them. "We're one week away from the primary," said spokesman Kirill Goncharenko. "We are confident that it's the senator's positive message that the voters want to hear."

But one poll released yesterday suggests that the message may need some sharpening. The poll, by Mason-Dixon PoliticaI/Media Research of Columbia, Md., had Dole as the choice of 31 percent of 330 likely Republican voters surveyed, with Forbes at 27 percent. Pollsters said the race was a toss-up, given the poll's margin of error: 5.5 percentage points. Buchanan trailed at 16 percent, with 26 percent of those polled still undecided. The statewide telephone survey was conducted Monday and Tuesday.

Another poll out yesterday, conducted by the Quinnipiac College Polling Institute of Hamden, Conn., had Dole leading the field in New York at 41 percent with Buchanan at 17 percent and Forbes at 12 percent.

Unlike the Mason-Dixon poll, the Quinnipiac poll included the names of candidates not on the primary ballot in New York. That lineup showed former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander at 11 percent, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana at 2 percent and former State Department official Alan Keyes at 1 percent. Sixteen percent were undecided. The poll surveyed 251 Republicans during a six-day period ending Feb. 27. The margin of error is plus or minus 6 percentage points.

Forbes, who was in Manhattan yesterday, declared the race to be wide open in New York as well as in other key states around the county. "We think this contest is going to be a marathon, and it's very important now to set up networks of volunteers in the large states," he said. "They will determine who wins the nomination far more than in the past because of their large blocs of delegates."

Buchanan is expected to run a low-budget campaign propelled largely by the force of his own personality.

The candidates are expected to make several public appearances in the state over the next week, and Dole is betting on the support of the GOP organization to pull him through. But a major portion of the battle is expected to be waged ~n TV screens and across radio airwaves.

Goncharenko said Dole has been running radio and television spots across the state for three days. "We're on statewide, on TV and radio, delivering Bob Dole's positive message of welfare reform, tax cuts and a balanced budget," he said, adding that multiple ads are running.

Michael Labriola, a political specialist and director of the eastern division of Cable Networks Inc., said Dole approached the firm last week to start running ads this week.

Labriola said Cable Networks Inc. is working with all three candidates to place commercials, but Buchanan and Forbes haven't finalized their buys. He said they want to be on the air by Mon- day or Tuesday.

Cable Networks Inc., which is owned by Cablevision Systems Corp. of Woodbury, sells time on cable networks statewide, including 20 to 25 different cable systems in the New York metro- politan area.

Forbes bought time yesterday on NYl News in Queens and throughout the city and will start running ads on the all-news cable network tonight. Steve Paulus, vice president of news, said Forbes placed an order to run six commercials tonight and 29 to 30 every day thereafter, including Thursday, Primary Day; the total works out to more than one an hour. Paulus said Dole is expected to call with an order today and probably will be running ads on NY1 this weekend. Buchanan, he said, hasn't called.

Elizabeth Sanger contributed to this story, which was supplemented by news service reports.

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