With just two weeks to go before the general election, the seven candidates looking to be the next governor of New York came out in the first (and most likely, only) debate on NY1 Monday night. Given the wild and unpredictable tone of the race so far, it was a relatively mild event.
Carl Paladino, the angry, unpredictable, and often offensive candidate, was largely a non-presence. Most on stage refused to engage Paladino, and he stammered through his prepared answers -- often failing to rebut when directly provoked. "My critics, they want to say I'm angry," he said. "No, I'm passionate about saving the state of New York."
Most of the tension played out between City Councilman Charles Barron of the Freedom Party, and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Barron warned: "Cuomo's gonna be the king of layoffs...I'm telling you. This guy gets in, you're gonna be laid off, your pension is gone, your health care is gone," a comment which elicited applause in the crowd.
Cuomo responded: "we go with you, Charles, there will be no jobs."
With the exception of Paladino, the candidates, a varied and eccentric bunch, largely agreed that tax cuts hurt the middle class, that New York government was crumbling under corruption and waste, and that city agencies like the MTA and the Board of Education require better regulation (or, in some cases, elimination). Kristin Davis, a former Madam, accused the MTA of being a "mismanaged patronage pit" and unlike the MTA her "former [escort] agency delivered on time and reliable service." Barron chimed in. "Abolish the MTA, we dont need it." But Davis, once a small business owner herself, would not agree that additional taxes would help revive the economy. "Additional taxes are not the answer...businesses will leave this state faster than Carl Paladino at a gay bar."
Most of the ire of the night seemed to be directed at Andrew Cuomo, who according to a recent poll is the clear front runner of the race. Councilman Barron made multiple accusations that implied Cuomo was guilty of cronyism and corruption: "Asking Andrew Cuomo and Carl Paladino to end corruption is like asking an arsonist to put out the fires."
Warren Redlich, a Libertarian, argued that his appeal as a candidate was precisely his outsider status: "I'm not your typical New York politician. I've never been caught with a prostitute, my dad wasnt governor, and I've never been convicted of a crime."
In the end, gay marriage, one of the presumed wedge issues of the race, was boiled down to a yes or no answer. Only Paladino fully came out against it; the other candidates were for it, with the exception of Barron, who cited only the Freedom Party's reluctance to take a stand. Jimmy McMillan of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party, offered, "If you wanna marry a shoe, I'll marry you."
UPDATE:Watch video highlights from Jimmy McMillan below (via Clairyanne).