New York gubernatorial candidates prepare to debate – all seven of them

Amanda Carey Contributor
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Tonight at 7 p.m., New York Attorney General and Democratic candidate for governor Andrew Cuomo will debate “angry as hell” Republican candidate Carl Paladino — and Charles Barron of the Freedom Party, and Kristin Davis of the Anti-Prohibition Party, and Howie Hawkins of the Green Party, and Warren Redlich of the Libertarian Party, and even Jimmy McMillan of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party.

In the first and only debate of the campaign, being held just two weeks before the midterm elections, all seven major and third-party candidates will face off at Hofstra University on Long Island.

No stranger to the media, “Madam” Kristin Davis grabbed headlines in 2008 after she admitted to supplying then-Democratic Governor Elliott Spitzer with call girls. As a result, Spitzer resigned from office and Davis spent four months in jail.

But ex-convicts can run for governor, too, and according to Davis campaign advisor Roger Stone, the candidate is spending the day “consulting Von Mises and Hayek, getting her nails done, leafing through the New York State budget, and playing with her cat – whose name is Barry Goldwater.”

She even went on a six-mile run this morning.

Davis’ platform consists mainly of calling for the legalization of marijuana, prostitution, gambling, and gay marriage.

Thus far, the governor’s race has revolved primarily around the back-and-forth between Cuomo and Paladino, who won a surprise victory September 14 when he defeated presumed GOP nominee Rick Lazio in the Republican primary. Since then, Paladino’s campaign tactics have included sending out mailers depicting Cuomo in the shower covered in grime and publishing a letter challenging Cuomo’s manhood for not accepting a debate challenge immediately after the primary.

The latest in the TV ad war between the two candidates features a Cuomo ad telling viewers that Paladino would deny rights to victims of rape and incest. The ad states that Paladino would make women “victims a second time. You would have fewer rights, not more.”

Paladino responded by releasing a “behind the scenes” ad that depicts him as a thoughtful, caring candidate who is “in constant contact with Joe Citizen out there – Joe and Josephine Citizen.”

Paladino’s campaign has also taken center stage in the last month with incidents that have drawn national attention. On September 29, Paladino got into a public fight with New York Post reporter Fred Dicker, alleging that the Post sent a photographer to take pictures of his daughter.

Then, in a speech to Jewish rabbis on October 10, Paladino said he didn’t want children to be “brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality” is acceptable.

Despite these widely criticized incidents, the real heat during the debate is expected to be directed at Cuomo, who is the clear frontrunner. The latest New York Times poll has him at 59 percent, compared to Paladino’s 24 percent. Cuomo was also endorsed by the New York Post.

But Cuomo still has the challenge of defending Democratic policies that are extremely unpopular this election season.
Among the other candidates participating in Monday night’s debate is Charles Barron, who created the Freedom Party so he could run for governor. His run is premised on the contention that it would be “scary” if every major statewide office is held by a white man. The crux of Barron’s platform is his war on poverty, increased regulations for corporations, and a progressive tax system.

No stranger to politics, this is Howie Hawkins’ fourth time running for elected office on the Green Party ticket. Campaigning on the promise to stand up for Main Street, Hawkins is a strong believer in restoring a strong, progressive tax system and establishing a state bank to invest in green technology.

His candidacy is also supported by the state Socialist Party.

The Libertarian candidate – Warren Redlich – is campaigning as the only candidate who would cap corporate pay and pensions, eliminate state agencies, and cut spending. Redlich is also no stranger to politics, working with Ron Paul’s presidential campaign in 2008 to get him on the ballot in New York.

The only single-issue candidate is Jimmy McMillan, who created the Rent is Just Too Damn High Party. McMillian is focusing solely on the issue of high rent, declaring on his website that “there is nothing else to talk about.” He even wrote a “Tenant Bill of Rights”.

Despite the full stage, the candidates the majority of viewers will be paying attention to are Paladino and Cuomo. So far, both campaigns have largely been devoid of meaningful policy discussions. Thus, Monday night’s debate will be New Yorkers’ first real introduction to the policy differences between the two major candidates.

All eyes and ears, of course, will also be watching to see if Paladino makes another scandalous gaffe — that, and whether the calm and cool (and more experienced) Cuomo will be able to remain calm and cool under Paladino’s pressure.