No surprises in New York gubernatorial debate

Amanda Carey Contributor
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Democratic New York gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo was every bit the smooth politician he was expected to be at Monday’s nights gubernatorial debate. He highlighted his experience and did what every Democrat is doing these days: distanced himself from the progressive, Democrat agenda.

Republican candidate Carl Paladino was very un-Paladino, keeping his answers short, to the point, and hard-line conservative.

And so the debate from Hofstra University in Long Island went. While the New York gubernatorial race has been considered by some to be the most interesting governor’s race this election cycle, Monday’s debate did not live up to the spirit of the campaign thus far.

If any candidate could be declared the winner, it would be Cuomo, even though he was on the defensive most of the night. The other six candidates targeted him for corruption, as well as being a symbol of all that ails Albany.

Despite that, Cuomo repeatedly gave answers that could only be described as moderate. “The state government spending is too much money. Taxes are out of control,” Cuomo said at one point. “Businesses leave. Jobs leave. Taxes are too high. The question in this race is who can actually do it. Who can get it done?”

Later he said, “The production of jobs is the single greatest job for next governor. There is no economic future for state of New York as highest taxed state.”

At the same time, Cuomo also highlighted his experience, touting his accomplishments as New York attorney general and arguing that he’s not only fought corruption, but also cut the size of government.

If Cuomo lived up to the expectations, Paladino did the opposite. The GOP nominee talked only when spoken to and kept his answers in line with the Republican Party platform, saying nothing provocative or contentious.

And for the most part, Paladino only indirectly attacked Cuomo by lumping him in with corrupt, status-quo politicians; quite the departure from the campaign tactics that have put Paladino in the national spotlight.

“I’m not your career Albany politician,” said Paladino in his closing statement. “I’m a builder from western New York. My critics say I’m angry. No, I’m passionate about New York. I’m not the candidate up to his neck in special interest campaign contributions.”

He added, “My campaign scares to death politicians in Albany – that’s why they call me crazy.”

Addressing real policy concerns, Paladino also said that if elected, he would lower income taxes by 10 percent and spending by 20 percent.

The other five candidates – Charles Barron of the Freedom Party, Kristin Davis of the Anti-Prohibition Party, Howie Hawkins of the Green Party, Warren Redlich of the Libertarian Party, and Jimmy McMillan of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party – stuck to their scripts too.
Davis provided the comedic relief for the night, poking fun at her past as a supplier of call girls. When asked about the state’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), for example, Davis said, “The key difference between the MTA and my former escort agency is that I delivered on time and had reliable service.”

Topics throughout the debate, which lasted about an hour and a half, ranged from the state’s education system, to restoring trust in government, to support for gay marriage.

When asked about their support for gay marriage, every candidate except Paladino and the Freedom Party’s Charles Barron answered in the affirmative. After wavering for a few seconds, Paladino finally said, “I do not support gay marriage,” while Barron sidestepped the question by saying the Freedom Party had not yet taken a stance on the issue.

Every other candidate expressed “strong” support for gay marriage.

While Monday night’s debate did not feature any new Paladino gaffes, it did show the Tea Party-backed candidate can hold his own and talk shop with even the most experienced politicians. But what he did not do is clearly differentiate himself from the frontrunner, Andrew Cuomo.

The latest New York Times poll had Cuomo up nearly 2 to 1. It’s unlikely that the one and only debate for this governor’s race will change that.