A wave of fiscal conservativism and pent up frustration with the political establishment helped propel first-time candidate Carl Paladino to the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Since that surprise victory over former Rep. Rick Lazio, many have ascribed Paladino’s victory to the Tea Party movement, which also fueled the unexpected victories of underdog candidates in Maryland and Nevada.
But Paladino, technically, isn’t a Tea Party candidate. And Steve Cohn finds that assumption a little irksome.
Cohn is an attorney in private practice, registered member of the Independence Party, and, thanks to a few thousand petitions filed with the State Board of Elections, a gubernatorial candidate running on the “Tea Party” line.
“Lets put it this way – the Tea Party nominated me,” Cohn said in an interview Monday afternoon. (He also spoke with WNYC in late August.)
After handing in about 50,000 signatures to appear on the ballot as the Tea Party candidate, Mr. Cohn said, “I think it’s inaccurate” to refer to Mr. Paladino as the Tea Party candidate.
“I have never spoken to Mr. Paladino, but my sense of it is that his policies don’t necessarily reflect the policies along the Tea Party line. Now, we all say we’re against public corruption. It’s easy to say because it sounds good, but it’s hard to endorse it when you might be part of the problem.” Mr. Cohn then went on to rattle off a number of charges levied at Mr. Paladino, a commercial real estate developer who has rented space to government agencies.
“I cannot say whether all the transactions in and of themselves would undergo scrutiny and come out clean,” said Mr. Cohn.
The Daily News reported that a company owned by Mr. Paladino received $1.47 million in tax breaks, while only investing $1.1 million in redeveloping local properties. And during 2001-2007 time period the company was receiving the tax break, it employed only one person. In 2008, it employed two.
Interestingly, Mr. Cohn does not consider the racially insensitive and sexually explicit emails Mr. Paladino had forwarded to colleagues a disqualifier for holding office.
“We’ve all forward emails,” said Mr. Cohn. “I’m sure that every single person has gotten emails and forwarded on that may have been cute, funny or may appeal to somebody without any real intent to abdicate the content of the email. So, I think we take things too far and this is just one example of it.”
“If it was just forwarding it on because he got it and just passed it on – I just think it’s making a mountain out of a molehill,” said Mr. Cohn.
Mr. Cohn’s candidacy has been complicated by a legal challenge raised to the petitions filed with state officials. It appears Mr. Cohn had not listed the name of a runningmate, something that is required for gubernatorial candidates.
Mr. Cohn said he’s confident his petitions will survive the legal challenge and that he’ll be allowed to continue his campaign.