New York State Governor

Transportation Nation

Cuomo: The MTA Shouldn't be an Authority and other Transit Ideas

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Candidates in last night’s New York State Gubernatorial debate had 60 seconds to describe how they would to fix the MTA. (The exact question came from a Parkchester resident who was interviewed by News 12 on the street. She asked: "I just want to know what the next governor is going to do to possibly audit the MTA's books, open up those books, see why they're always in such a deficit. What about the salaries of some of these executives? How come they're not cutting their salaries to give us better service?")

While this question gave Anti-Prohibition Party candidate Kristin Davis the opportunity to deliver the zinger of the evening (when asked what she would do to reform the MTA, she said: "The key difference between the MTA and my former escort agency is I operated one set of books, and I offered on-time and reliable service”), both major party candidates described their plans to put the MTA under control of the governor's office. Their full responses are below.

Unfortunately, the question did not address the MTA's biggest problem right now -- its continuing budget problems and how the authority should be financed.  And no one volunteered a plan.  (Andrew Cuomo's only hint to date is that he might eliminate the tax voted in in 2009 as part of the MTA's bailout plan, but he hasn't say what he'd replace that with.)

Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic candidate: “In some ways, the MTA is just a gross symbol of the problem that a lot of these state agencies and authorities have. Number one:

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The Empire

Q Poll: Lazio Leads, but Paladino Supporters More Confident

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Rick Lazio leads Carl Paladino 47-35 among Republican voters, with 18 percent undecided, according to the new Quinnipiac poll, released this morning. The big number in the poll is the 49 percent of voters who have chosen sides in this race but say they're open to changing their minds. Political Wire notes Lazio's lead is not commanding.

Sixty-two percent of Paladino's supporters say they're determined to vote for their preferred candidate; among Lazio's supporters, that number is only 42 percent.

So, expect a blitzkrieg assault from Paladino in the coming days. He's said he'll spend $10 million of his own money on the race.

The Q poll shows Lazio leading Paladin among women, 51-26 percent (a number probably not helped by the racy emails Paladino sent out).

Lazio's strategy has been to ignore his flawed and outspoken opponent. That's for two reasons. First, Lazio doesn't really have the money to be spending on a primary challenger, when he needs to save every nickel for his race against Andrew Cuomo in November (Cuomo has raised more than $25 million and is sitting on a huge war chest).

Second, in order to close the seemingly huge gap in polling numbers between himself and Cuomo, Lazio needs to make this a one-on-one race as soon as possible. Every day that goes by with Paladino in the news is one less day Lazio has to convince people that he can govern better than Cuomo (whom the polls show has a  pretty high favorable rating among voters for his four years as attorney general).

The other heated race worth watching - the Democratic primary for attorney general - is not seizing the public's attention.

Respondents to the Q poll found:
77 percent did not know who was running
8 percent named someone not on the ballot


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The Empire

The Bumpy, Impolite and Offensive Campaign of Carl Paladino

Saturday, August 28, 2010

He's not kissing rings. Paladino says he's campaigning against the 'politicla ruling class.'

The first time Carl Paladino met his wife, she threw a beer in his face.

It was Mr. Paladino’s junior year at St. Bonaventure's University in Buffalo, and during one celebratory weekend, he was hanging out in a local bar before a dance later that evening.

Here’s how Mr. Paladino tells it.

“Somebody says ‘This is Cathy Hannon,’ and I made a crude remark about one of her relatives who I knew from the city. I made a crude remark and she threw a beer on me, and that was the end of that discussion,” he said.

Mr. Paladino eventually left. Later that night, he met up with a friend who had arranged a blind date. Mr. Paladino’s companion that night – Kathy Hannon.

“She forgave me,” he said. The two have been married for forty years.

As Mr. Paladino’s launches into the final week of the Republican primary for governor, his penchant for abrasive, off-the-cuff remarks has not abated.

He’s described State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver as “Hitler” and the “anti-Christ.” As part of a job training program, Mr. Paladino proposed teaching welfare recipients about “personal hygiene.”

Mr. Paladino’s complete disregard for the traditional niceties of electioneering is a marked contrast to the man he’s trying to defeat in the Republican primary, former Rep. Rick Lazio of Long Island. Critics, and even some supporters, describe Mr. Lazio as a sincere, but not passionate, candidate.

Passion is not lacking in candidate Paladino.

Even when discussing the collection of sillybands on his arm, Mr. Paladino grows animated.

"That's a star. That's a dollar sign. That's a dog. And that's a cloud,” Mr. Paladino said, walking down the street in Mineola one recent afternoon. “I had to change with one of [my daughter’s] friends the other day - when one of her friends asks to exchange, you got to take what they give ya and give them what they want. So, she took my ice cream cone and she gave me this stinkin' dollar sign which I really don't like."

The real brunt of Mr. Paladino’s anger is reserved for what he calls the “political ruling class" of both parties. To rescue New Yorkers from New York politicians, Mr. Paladino said he’s put together a no-holds barred campaign team. The commercial real estate developer put $10 million of his own money behind the effort, and he's courted a team of aides known for their eccentricities as much as for their talents.

In late March, when Mr. Paladino decided to run, he got in touch with a political operative who was from his hometown of Buffalo but who had worked on campaigns all over the world: Michael Caputo.

Mr. Caputo had been in semi-retirement, living for a while on a tugboat in Key West, Florida. Caputo’s political work has taken him around the world. He has worked a few campaigns in Russia, and, as he tells it, buried a few friends, because of campaigns in Russia.

Mr. Caputo had moved back to Buffalo to take over his family’s insurance company when Mr. Paladino came calling. Mr. Caputo received the call – on his birthday – and came out of retirement.

"Getting on this campaign is the first time I put on a suit in five years. And none of them fit,” Mr. Caputo said in Mineola. “None of them fit. Moving back to Buffalo is the first time I put on shoes in four years."

To go with the new suits: a pair of black cufflinks, with a skull and bones on them. As far as Mr. Paladino is concerned, the floating domicile is the least surprising part of his campaign manager’s resume.

“What did you think when you heard this guy was living on a tug-boat in Florida?” I asked Mr. Paladino.

“If you think that's strange, wait until you hear the rest of the story,” he chuckled. “We're talking one day - somebody's reading the newspaper and somebody says 'Did you see this little airplane crash?' And out of the clear blue sky, he says, ‘I was in a plane crash once - in Siberia.’ ”

Yes, Siberia.

To help Mr. Paladino recall the story, because it's just that good, another campaign aide - John Haggerty - steps in.

“He drops stuff like this - it's like he's Forrest Gump,” Mr. Haggerty says, smiling. Mimicking both sides of a conversation with his adventurous colleague, Mr. Haggerty adds, “Yeah, I was in an emergency landing in Siberia. Emergency landing? Oh yeah, the front of the plane broke off –“

Mr. Paladino jumps in with the final part of Mr. Caputo’s anecdote.

“And they were surrounded by wolves. And all they could see was the whites of their eyes. And the helicopter pilot says 'Boy, you guys got out of there just in time’” he said.

“And I'm saying, 'are you kidding me?' "

Mr. Caputo politely notes that, technically, it wasn’t a plane crash.

Mr. Caputo is not the only one who has had a bumpy ride. Mr. Haggerty – a cherub-faced, quick-smiling Republican operative ran the ballot-protection program for Mayor Bloomberg’s re-election campaign last year. After the smaller-then-expected victory, Mr. Haggerty was accused of pocketing nearly $750,000 in payments from the campaign and not providing anything in return.

Then there's Roger Stone, a friend of Paladino who put him in touch with Mr. Caputo.

Mr. Stone has a tattoo on his back of Richard Nixon's face and led the so-called Brooks Brother's riot that shut down the 2000 presidential recount in Florida. In 2007, he was forced to resign from his post as a political consultant to Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno following allegations that he left a profanity-laced voicemail message for Eliot Spitzer's father, but Stone still says the recording was not real.

And my favorite: In order to prove he leaked damaging information about Mr. Spitzer's liaison with a prostitute, Stone agreed to be interviewed by a magazine reporter in the same location where Mr. Stone said he first leaned about the information: inside a Florida sex club.

These guys don't care what people think about them. And that’s how Mr. Paladino likes it.

“I don't want to be anybody's friend. I don't have to be anybody's friend,” he said, during a wide-ranging interview. “It doesn't make me more comfortable than I already am. I don't seek money. I don't seek power. I don't seek praise or pats on the back.”

The 54-year-old real estate developer said he was sitting in his office in Buffalo earlier this year when a young candidate walked into his office.

Mr. Paladino recalled the meeting. “We talked for an hour. At the end of the hour, I thanked him, I showed him to the door, I came back and sat down. I don't have a word for this. I look at my son Bill, and Bill goes..."

Mr. Paladino hunched his shoulders, threw his hands up and twisted his face into a question mark.

“I don't know what the word would be, but it's Italian for 'what the $@! is this?’ “ Mr. Paladino said.

The candidate who had just left Mr. Paladino dumbfounded: Rick Lazio

Mr. Lazio was, by that time, running for governor with the support or former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a portion of the local Republican establishment. When he came to Buffalo, Mr. Lazio was hoping to get Mr. Paladino's money. He got Mr. Paladino’s candidacy, instead.

The two couldn’t be more different. Mr. Lazio served four terms in congress

If it’s considered poor etiquette for a donor to launch a campaign because of an uninspiring meeting with a politician, Mr. Paladino is not concerned.

The way Paladino sees it, Democrats and Republicans have both been complicit in perpetuating the state's problems. Special interest groups pressure lawmakers, who respond by giving away state money. To pay for the giveaways, lawmakers raise taxes on businesses, who, in recent years, have laid people off, or moved out of state.

Lawmakers, according to Mr. Paladino, never cut spending.

“Two hundred and ninety-eight thousand three hundred and forty-one employees, they couldn't fine one employee to lay off in this budget crisis?” he asked. “They raised our taxes last year ten point nine billion dollars. They raised it this year five point one billion dollars."

The key to Mr. Paladino's strategy for cutting state spending is to shrink the size of government. He'll give the legislature a bare-bones budget, and when they try to increase spending, he says he'll just stare them down. And they'll buckle.

He says there's no chance lawmakers will unite and overpower him in a budget fight.

“To override my veto, they got to get…two thirds, plus one,” he said, referring to the 212 legislators in the New York State State Assembly and State Senate. “As long as I have one third plus one in the Senate, and I'll probably also have in the Assembly, it's over. That's it. It's the end of it. That's the budget."

How he can be sure lawmakers in his corner won't bolt during the budget fight, like they did in the waning days of Republican Governor George Pataki’s tenure?

“I have a Republican Senate. They're going to do what I tell them to do,” Mr. Paladino deadpanned. “And let somebody try to stray - and I'll wreck 'em. I'll ruin 'em."

This kind of tough talk is exactly what some voters are looking for.

"I'm definitely upset with the way politics have gone and the way taxes have gone. I'm just not happy with it. It keeps going further,” says retired Army veteran Anthony Phillips, who donated $50 to Mr. Paladino’s campaign.

Before Paladino can harness public anger into electoral power, he has some questions of his own to answer. Like, why he forwarded a number of explicit emails to his friends

How explicit?

Lets just say, one shows President Obama in an gold chain; another shows a woman with a horse. My editor won't let me get more specific than that.

Lesser offenses have derailed other politicians. But Mr. Paladino and his gang forge ahead.

“My humor is irrelevant to my temperament. If you go and Google me, you're going to see what Carl Paladino is about. And sure, I'm not perfect. And sure, I'm not human,” he said, before correcting himself. “I’m human, forgive me - hahaha. I'm human. I've had my careless moments. I didn't think twice about sending to my friends a bunch of obscene emails.

“But, I apologized. I apologized to the people that were offended. People that I meet since that thing first became public, they're interested in the high crimes and misdemeanors of Albany, They could give a hell about Carl Paladino and his emails."

Despite the offensive emails, and lack of name recognition, Mr. Paladino could win the primary. Voter anger and an increasingly-organized Tea Party apparatus has propelled a number of angry, outsider, anti-establishment candidates like Mr. Paladino.

“If he spend his resources properly, he could easily be the nominee,” says Ed Rollins, who worked as Ronald Reagan's top political adviser in the White House and has stayed neutral in the gubernatorial race. (He doesn't give Mr. Paladino, or his opponent Mr Lazio, a chance of beating Democratic nominee Andrew Cuomo in November.)

Should he make it to the general election, Democrats are sure to remind voters of Mr. Paladino's emails. But that, in itself, would be a victory of sorts for Mr. Paladino, whose entrance in to the race was greeted with a mixture of laughter and disbelief.

Recent polling shows Mr. Paladino within ten or twelve points of Mr. Lazio. And one hugely influential voice in New York Republican politics, the New York Post, has not endorsed either Republican gubernatorial candidate yet.

The Post has criticized Mr. Lazio for focusing too much on the controversy over building an Islamic center two blocks north of Ground Zero and not enough on the state’s more pressing problems.

And, the tension between Mr. Lazio and the paper’s state editor, Fred Dicker, burst into public view Tuesday morning during Mr. Dicker’s closely-watched radio program.

As Mr. Dicker interviewed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Cuomo, Mr. Lazio and an aide called into the program. Mr. Dicker then told his listeners that “I’ve tried for months to get Rick Lazio on the show” and now “Lazio is trying to cut into the show.”

Mr. Dicker described the maneuver as a “sneak attack” and told listeners, “I said thanks but no thanks.” Listeners never heard from Mr. Lazio.

Later, Mr. Lazio’s campaign spokesman went onto Twitter, and referred to Mr. Dicker as a “Cuomo apologist.”

About a week before Mr. Lazio and Mr. Dicker’s spat, Mr. Paladino went in for an editorial board meeting with the New York Post. Walking out of their offices on Avenue of the Americas, Mr. Paladino said he felt he gave a good presentation, but the editorial board was hard to read.

"I think we impressed everybody in the room, except the guy to my right,” Mr. Paladino said. “He did not change his facial expression through the whole meeting."

Mr. Paladino and his campaign manager Mr. Caputo, said things grew difficult when a certain reporter starting asking detailed questions.

“She's one of the toughest political reporters in the state,” Mr. Caputo said.

“The little dark-haired one I gave the thing to?” Mr. Paladino asked.

“Right,” said Mr. Caputo. “Jennifer,” referring to the New York Post's Jennifer Fermino.

Mr. Paladino nodded, and explained to me, “I gave her a sillyband. Because she didn't have any. My daughter said, you're not cool if you don't have one of these."

They gave me one too.

Then, Mr. Paladino and Mr. Caputo drove to JFK airport and caught a flight to Buffalo for another meeting with another group of potential supporters: a motorcycle club.

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The Empire

Lazio Won’t Debate Paladino on NY1 / YNN (What About YouTube Debate?)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rick Lazio will not debate his GOP rival Carl Paladino and is blaming…NY1.

The station tried scheduling a debate for this upcoming Monday but was unable to get Lazio to confirm to it.

Here’s how NY1 describes it:

The Lazio campaign sites a scheduling conflict, but NY1 first proposed this date to Team Lazio weeks ago and did not get a final answer until yesterday. NY1 also asked for alternate dates that would fit Lazio’s schedule, but his campaign never proposed any.


Lazio’s campaign accused NY1 and [member station] YNN of being in league with Paladino but said in an email, “we look forward to debating Andrew Cuomo on YNN before November 2.”

FYI: today, Lazio is campaigning at the New York State Fair.

So, allow me to inject myself pointlessly into the debate about debates.

Since scheduling is difficult, what about doing what they did in the 2008 presidential debates: let's have readers post their questions to YouTube and I’ll post them on the blog. Then, if either Lazio or Paladino want to respond, they can upload their answers to YouTube as well.

Just an idea.

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The Empire

Now that WFP Won't Face Federal Charges...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Now that the Working Families Party says the U.S. Attorney’s office has decided not to press charges against it, the focus will return to the party’s other pressing matter: whether Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Cuomo will accept the party’s nomination?

When the endorsement was offered to him, Cuomo said no, citing the ongoing investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office.

The party, in response, nominated a placeholder candidate they could swap out later.

But a number of prominent Democrats weren't deterred. Already appearing on the WFP line are people like Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and a bunch of Democratic congress members and state legislators.

I sent an inquiry to Cuomo’s campaign seeking a response to the WFP news. I'll update when I get a response.

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The Empire

Cuomo: To Reform, I Have to Get Elected. To Get Elected, I Have to Raise Money

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Andrew Cuomo explains why he currently accepts large sums of money from LLCs, even as he campaigns with the pledge to close the loophole allowing LLC's to give huge sums of money to political campaigns.

In Ithaca, Cuomo said:

I want to reform the campaign finance system. To reform the campaign finance system I have to get elected. To get elected I have to raise money. I don’t have large sums of personal wealth, I don’t’ come from a family with large sums of personal wealth. I have to get elected which means I have to raise money, so I can be in a position to actually make the reforms.

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The Empire

Siena: Paladino Gains on Lazio, Both Trail Cuomo

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rick Lazio's once 20-point lead over Carl Paladino among Republican voters has shrunk to thirteen points, according to a new poll from Siena.

Lazio, the GOP nominee leads Paladino, an upstate businessman who petitioned his way onto the ballot, 43-30 percent. That's down from the 40-20 percent lead Lazio had back in July.

Cuomo leads each of them in head-to-head match-ups, and in three-way matches.

Cuomo - 60
Lazio    - 26

Cuomo - 60
Paladino- 27

Cuomo                         - 56
Lazio [Republican]        - 19
Paladino [independent]  -12

Cuomo                        - 56
Lazio [Conservative]     - 16
Paladino [Republican]  - 14

One factor in the race could be the candidate's stance on the mosque and cultural center proposed near Ground Zero.

Twenty-two percent of voters say a candidate's position on this issue will have a "major impact" on their decision of whom to support. Thirty-seven percent say the issue will have "some effect," on their decision. Thirty-nine percent says it won't be a factor at all.

Sixty-three percent of voters say they oppose it, compared to 27 who support it. Interestingly, 64 percent say the developers have a right to build the project at its current location. Twenty-eight say there is no legal right.

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The Empire

Lazio Trains a Camera on Ground Zero

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio tries reclaiming some momentum, putting out an ad reminding people he was an early critic of the mosque plan, and renewing his call for the project's funding to be investigated by Andrew Cuomo, the state attorney general and Democratic candidate for governor.

As if it's needed, the ad features images of people running from Ground Zero on September 11, and of the rubble after the towers fell. And the only voices in the commercial are from people being interviewed, all regular New Yorkers. Many of them are filmed with the current construction site at Ground Zero in the background, which helps reinforce the point opponents are trying to make: the location is too close to the proposed mosque.

But, to be clear, the mosque is two blocks from Ground Zero, and not within eyesight of one another.

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The Empire

Cuomo and Obama's Group

Monday, August 16, 2010

Andrew Cuomo

Azi Paybarah / WNYC

Andrew Cuomo campaigning in Harlem during 2006 campaign.

Obama's campaign spin-off, Organizing for America, is out with an email to supporters rallying support for Andrew Cuomo's gubernatorial campaign.

Haberman notes this makes Cuomo "part of the national party's movement."

Cuomo is, oddly, declining to comment on the email.

The only thing I'll add is that the email doesn't mention the word Democrat.  Instead, the email characterizes the opponents they're trying to topple as "lobbyists and special interest" and "lawmakers" who "can't break free from the status quo."

The OFA description underscores Cuomo anti-Albany message. "I think we have to have less focus on the party labels and more focus on the people,"Cuomo told reporters last Friday.

So, for this one, the OFA is following Cuomo's script.

UPDATE: After seeing reports about their lack of comment, Cuomo's campaign sent over a statement.

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