At IOP Press Conference, Lazio Mulls Retirement from Public Life

Former Senate candidate Rep. Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.) said he may retire from elected public service at a student press conference held yesterday at the Institute of Politics.

However, Lazio said he would consider a position in the potential administration of president-elect Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

"It really depends on what is offered and it's first important that the administration be a success," he said.

In November, Lazio lost his bid for a New York state Senate seat to Sen. Hillary R. Clinton (D-N.Y.), after a long and frequently bitter campaign. He joined the race after New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani withdrew from the contest.

Lazio told reporters yesterday that he has not yet decided what he will do now.

"Pat [my wife} and I are floating right now. I'm considering a few opportunities, but I'm still really working through with my life how I would like to remain in the public sector," he said.

But Lazio, who spent most of his life in elected office, said he has not ruled out joining the private sector.

"I never got wealthy, and maybe it's time to earn a bit more money," he said.

But even if Lazio pursues financial well-being, he did stress that he planned to remain a public figure.

"No matter what I do, there will still be a public component," he said.

During the following Institute of Politics Pizza and Politics event in the Leverett Senior Common Room, Lazio expanded on this idea to a crowd of about 50.

Lazio spent a good portion of the question and answer period assessing his campaign.

When asked about things he would have done differently throughout the campaign, Lazio blamed himself for "relying too much on consultants and staff and not listening to myself enough."

A self-described "micro-manager," Lazio attributed the hands-off style of his campaign to the time crunch he faced.

"Hillary began campaigning on her listening tour a year ago February, and I had five months," he said.

He attributed his loss to two factors: turnout and timing.

Lazio entered the race in May and had "five months to gain name ID...half of my time was spent fundraising, preventing me from going grassroots."

"I made all my mistakes in the first five months of the campaign," Lazio joked. "The unfortunate thing was the campaign only lasted five months."

The historical nature of the campaign also presented difficulty to the Lazio campaign.

"The campaign was run against the White House. It's the first time that anyone's had to run against a First Lady. It was organized with a very professional staff," he said.

Lazio said Clinton aide Harold M. Ickes Jr. was a pivotal figure in Hillary's win.

"He got the organized labor turnout and just has lots of experience," he said.

Responding to a student question about Hillary Clinton's future plans, Lazio expressed concern about the implications of her national reputation.

"She's not known for being very bipartisan," Lazio said. "She's never really tried. I anticipate a lot of high profile bipartisan events in her first two months."

Despite his defeat, Lazio encouraged students to remain active in public service, even if not as elected officials.

He particularly noted the power of non-profit organizations to affect change.

" If you get involved in the right places, you can really do a lot with them," he said. "There's so much you can do...Never let defeat have the last word."