from The Water's Edge

Campaign 2016: George Pataki, GOP Presidential Candidate

Pataki Foreign Policy
Pataki Foreign Policy

May 29, 2015

Pataki Foreign Policy
Pataki Foreign Policy
Blog Post
Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

Would you come out of retirement and put your record of never having lost an election on the line in a long-shot bid to be president? George Pataki is doing just that. The three-time governor of New York won his first race for political office back in 1981, convincing the citizens of Peekskill, New York to make him their mayor. He then won his next eight elections, rising through New York state politics before finally retiring in 2007 after twelve years as governor. But yesterday, after eight years on the political sidelines, Pataki jumped back into the fray. He announced that he is running for the Republican presidential nomination.

Name: George E. Pataki

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Elections and Voting

Date of Birth: June 24, 1945

Place of Birth: Peekskill, New York

Religion: Roman Catholic

Political Party: Republican Party

Marital Status: Married to Elizabeth “Libby” Rowland

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Elections and Voting

Children: Emily, Teddy, Allison, and Owen

Alma Mater: Yale University (BA), Columbia University (JD)

Political Career: Governor of New York (1995-2007); New York State Legislature (1985-1994); Mayor of Peekskill, NY (1982-1984)

Campaign Website:

Twitter Handle: @GovernorPataki

Campaign Announcement

Pataki held a small campaign launch event in New Hampshire, but his announcement to most of the world took the form of a September 11–themed video (Pataki was governor of New York when the planes hit the twin towers).

Foreign Policy Views

Not surprisingly for someone who spent his career in state politics, Pataki does not have a lengthy foreign policy resume. In recent weeks, however, he’s been more vocal on foreign policy issues. He made it clear to CNN earlier this month that he wants to send U.S. combat troops back to the Middle East:

I don’t want to see us putting in a million soldiers, spend 10 years, a trillion dollars, trying to create a democracy where one hasn’t existed… But send in troops, destroy their training centers, destroy their recruitment centers, destroy the area where they are looking to plan to attack us here and then get out.

He explained his thinking in a Fox News interview yesterday. He sees the Islamic State as a threat not just to the Middle East but to Americans on U.S. soil. That’s why he is also promising to provide weapons and train to those already fighting the Islamic State in Iraq. Most of Pataki’s GOP rivals oppose putting boots on the ground in Iraq, so his position makes him stand out in a crowded Republican field.

Pataki sounds a lot like other Republican candidates when it comes to Iran: he thinks the Obama administration’s agreement should be rejected.

Pataki stands apart from his GOP rivals on immigration. Although he hasn’t set out a detailed policy, he looks to favor some form of a path to citizenship, or at least a path to legality:

I believe it’s totally unrealistic if we think we’re going to take 11 million people and send them back where they came from…We do have to find a way for the vast majority of them to legalize their status here.

Pataki’s biggest difference with his Republican rivals may come on climate change. (Pataki co-chaired a CFR Task Force on climate change and U.S. foreign policy back in 2008.) He says:

I think it’s wrong to ignore environmental and conservation issues, I think it’s an important part of the federal government’s role. But I think it’s even worse if the federal government uses that as an excuse to raise revenue, shut down businesses, cut off innovation and pick winners and losers.

Pataki differs from the Obama administration and most climate change activists in not wanting to see major government regulatory action. He thinks that private and market-based initiatives should be the driving forces combating climate change.

More on Pataki

The New York Times has “George Pataki on the Issues.” The Washington Post has George Pataki on the issues of the 2016 campaign. NPR has “5 Things You Should Know About George Pataki.” The Atlantic calls him one of the “longest long shots of the 2015 GOP race.”

Rachael Kauss assisted in the preparation of this post.