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Pataki Enters 2016 Race as GOP Field Expands

Former New York Gov. George Pataki greets supporters in Exeter, N.H., after announcing his plans to seek the Republican nomination for president, May 28, 2015.

The crowded field of Republican U.S. presidential hopefuls has gained another contender, with former New York Governor George Pataki announcing his candidacy Thursday.

Pataki, who led the state of New York during the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, kicked off his bid in a YouTube video, vowing a tough response to radical Islamists.

"I saw up close the horrible consequences of too many believing that because radical Islam was thousands of miles away across an ocean that we were safe in America. Sadly it wasn't true then and it's not true now," he said.

The 69-year-old Pataki is seen as a long shot in a Republican field that already includes eight declared candidates, as well as eight others considering a run.

There are no front-runners in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, according to a Thursday poll by Quinnipiac University.

Leading the way with 10 percent each were former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Arkansas Governor and Baptist minister Mike Huckabee, Senator Marco Rubio, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

"With no front-runner and identical numbers for the top five contenders, it's a horse race which can only be described as a scrambled field - at least so far," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll.

The poll indicated that ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues to dominate among Democratic voters, with 57 percent. Her closest Democratic challenger is Senator Bernie Sanders, with 15 percent.

According to the poll, Clinton would win in a general election over any of the Republican candidates.

Appeal to Democrats

In his announcement, Pataki appealed to Democratic "blue" voters.

"I was a Republican governor in a very deep blue state, the state of New York," he said in a video titled "Pataki for President," posted on his website,

He has criticized "religious freedom" bills that conservative candidates backed and called it "inappropriate" when Republican lawmakers wrote to Iranian leaders in a move largely seen as undermining Democratic President Barack Obama.

Pataki presented himself as a Washington outsider and invoked a conservative theme on the outsized power of government.

"Washington has grown too big, too powerful, too expensive and too intrusive," he said. "This is exactly what the founding fathers feared. It is time to stand up, protect our freedom and take back this government."

Pataki launched a fundraising super PAC in January and has made appearances in New Hampshire and Florida, important states in the presidential nominating contests.

Pataki was a first-term state senator in New York when he narrowly beat incumbent Democrat Mario Cuomo in the 1994 governor's election.

After leaving the governor's office, he was a delegate to the United Nations and started a business development firm focused on energy companies.

Some material for this report came from Reuters.