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Peekskill Native George Pataki To Enter Presidential Race In New Hampshire

George Pataki at a Juneteenth celebration in Peekskill in 2011, when he decided against a run for president.
George Pataki at a Juneteenth celebration in Peekskill in 2011, when he decided against a run for president. Photo Credit: File photo
Hillary Clinton of Chappaqua announced her second candidacy for president on April 12.
Hillary Clinton of Chappaqua announced her second candidacy for president on April 12. Photo Credit: File photo
Nelson Rockefeller of Pocantico Hills lost the Republican nomination for president in 1964 and later served as vice president under President Gerald Ford.
Nelson Rockefeller of Pocantico Hills lost the Republican nomination for president in 1964 and later served as vice president under President Gerald Ford. Photo Credit: File photo
Samuel Tilden of Yonkers, the 25th governor of New York, won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College to Rutherford B. Hayes in the 1876 presidential election.
Samuel Tilden of Yonkers, the 25th governor of New York, won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College to Rutherford B. Hayes in the 1876 presidential election. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

This story has been updated.

GARRISON, N.Y. -- Political pundits ruled George Pataki out as a contender when he challenged Mario Cuomo for governor in 1994 -- and won. The Garrison resident and former mayor from Peekskill is used to running as an underdog.

He's already considered a long shot in a crowded field of Republican candidates for president.

The lanky, soft-spoken former three-term governor plans to launch his first presidential campaign on Thursday in Exeter, N.H. Now living in the Putnam County hamlet of Garrison, Pataki has visited New Hampshire nine times during the past year and the other key early primary states of Iowa and South Carolina a half dozen times.

New York Magazine pointed out, for instance, that "Pataki’s status as the 9/11 governor enables him to stand out from the other political-dinner speakers who also boast of cutting crime and taxes."

Politico called Pataki "defiant in the face of long odds and political pundits."

Pataki has floated the notion of running for president twice before, but this time it's official.

Pataki's upset against Cuomo proved, a three-term incumbent, showed that steady campaigning and the right political climate can overcome a lack of name recognition.

Pataki recently told reporters he has a proven track record of confounding pollsters by appealing to voters beyond the Republican Party base. Indeed, during his statewide campaigns, Pataki attracted support from independents, conservative Democrats and minority voters who would be key in swing states like Florida and Ohio.

And his roots are more like middle American than most of America knows yet: "I probably spent more of my life on a farm than anybody out there,'' Pataki told the New York Post.

Pataki and his wife, Libby, own a farm in Garrison that sells cherries, hay and has 85 head of cattle. His childhood family farm in Peekskill grew corn, tomatoes and strawberries, but was best known by locals for its apples and pumpkins.

Westchester has another local candidate seeking the presidency in 2016. Hillary Clinton of Chappaqua, a former First Lady, Secretary of State and U.S. senator from New York announced her second candidacy for president on April 12.

Another Westchester resident who rose from governor to potential presidential candidate was Nelson Rockefeller. Rockefeller was in the mix as a Republican candidate in both 1960 and 1964 but his divorce and remarriage hurt his approval ratings. He lost the party nomination to Sen. Barry Goldwater in 1964.

The last candidate, other than Rockefeller and Clinton in 2008, to run for president and reside in Westchester was Samuel Tilden of Yonkers , who won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College to Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876.

In 1968, Rockefeller was considered a frontrunner as a Republican presidential candidate. But indecision caused him to lose an early foothold, and Richard Nixon won the nomination. Nixon and his wife made a campaign visit to the Rockefeller's Pocantico Hills estate that year. Rockefeller later served as 41st vice president of the United States under President Gerald Ford.

Pataki graduated from Peekskill High School. He served as Peekskill mayor from 1981 to 1984 and in both chambers of the New York State Legislature before his election as governor.

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