GOP needs to make room 'for everybody,' warns NYC mayor

By Lee Bandy, Knight Ridder

September 3, 1998 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

(COLUMBIA) -- New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said Wednesday that Republicans should make room for moderate viewpoints in the GOP presidential field.

"We need the biggest tent possible," he told a news conference at the state GOP headquarters. "There's room in the Republican Party for everybody."

He was joined by S.C. Republican Chairman Henry McMaster, who had invited the mayor to attend a "Victory '98" reception, a party fund-raising event, at his Columbia home.

Giuliani is a potential presidential contender for 2000. He is considered a long shot at best, however. The mayor favors abortion rights and gay rights, two stances that make him anathema to social and religious conservatives who play an important role in Republican politics, particularly South Carolina's first-in-the-South primary.

Several gay activists carried signs outside the event at McMaster's house near the USC campus, thanking the mayor for signing a law extending domestic partnership rights to same-sex couples in New York City.

"We're just hoping they will set a place for us at the table in the Republican Party in South Carolina," said Tony Snell, president of the S.C. Gay and Lesbian Pride Movement.

In spite of Giuliani's views on such issues, McMaster said if the mayor chose to run for president, he could be nominated.

"I would urge him to consider running," the chairman said. "He has a superb record as a prosecutor. He's a premier crime fighter. He's a thinker. He's wise. And I think he would make an excellent candidate . . . South Carolina voters would vote for someone who has reduced crime like the mayor has in New York."

Giuliani was mum on the presidential race.

"I haven't thought about it very seriously," he said.

The mayor refused to rule out a run for higher office when he won election for a second term.

Giuliani compares his views to Republican governors such as Christie Todd Whitman of New Jersey, Pete Wilson of California and George Pataki of New York.

He said there are about 30 or 35 Republicans who might run for president. Any of them would be better in the White House than Vice President Al Gore or any other Democrat, the mayor said.

Giuliani said the GOP needs to broaden the debate in 2000 to consider all points of view. He acknowledged the party had its disagreements over abortion and other social issues. But he said there is a lot of room in the GOP for those who have different viewpoints on very personal matters.

Giuliani said he was traveling the country to help raise money for the party and strengthen its base for 2000.

"Rudy is an outstanding member of our team," McMaster said.

The mayor called for an open debate on divisive issues without writing people out of the party.

While here, the mayor chose to talk about those things that unite Republicans. He promoted smaller government, welfare-slashing and tough-on- crime measures. He said Republicans agree on more than they disagree.

Giuliani praised GOP Gov. David Beasley for standing up to the video- poker industry. The games destroy people's lives and families, he said, and create a climate for organized crime.

In response to a question about the Confederate battle flag that flies above the State House, the mayor again praised Beasley for the "courageous" stand he took in calling for its removal. However, when asked if it should come down, Giuliani said that was a state matter and he was not going to tell South Carolina what to do.