Lazio gets Conservative Party backing

Rick Lazio's gubernatorial bid has been endorsed by New York's Conservative Party.

The party leadership voted 14-5 Saturday on a non-binding resolution to back the former Republican congressman. Chairman Michael Long said the party "will do everything we can to ensure [Lazio's] election this November."

Their move came a day after Suffolk County executive Steve Levy, a Democrat, announced he was running for governor as a Republican.

The backing of the Conservative Party is essential for any non-Democratic candidate to win statewide in New York, but Levy's campaign downplayed the significance of the vote.

"This was merely an unweighted recommendation and has little meaning until a designee is officially chosen at the convention in June,” the campaign said in a statement. "We anticipate major defections, as was the case with the Republican Party."

Lazio was once considered the presumptive Conservative and Republican nominee, but his lackluster fundraising has prompted party leaders to cast around for another candidate. As of January, Lazio had some $640,000 cash on hand while Levy reportedly has banked more than $4.1 million.