If the competition was “Who Can Get The Best Zinger” in tonight’s debate in the race for New York Governor, then Republican nominee Carl Paladino “ummm”‘ed and “uhhh”‘ed” his way to last place next to the other colorful candidates, who made up for the debate’s low-key tone with some choice jokes and one-liners.Aside from Paladino and Cuomo, Charles Barron of the Freedom Party, Kristin Davis (the former “Manhattan madam”) of the Anti-Prohibition Party, Howie Hawkins of the Green Party, Jimmy McMillan of the Rent is 2 Damn High Party, and Warren Redlich of the Libertarian Party, were also debating.
Paladino’s first slip-up came with a question about property taxes. “Our property taxes are out of control throughout this state,” he said. “They’re 60% higher than the national mean…uh…our property taxes are 60% higher than the national mean.”
Cuomo said property taxes “are one of the most oppressive taxes in the state of New York, and that the “states has to reduce what’s called the unfunded mandates.”
Meanwhile, Redlich used his time to actually introduce himself to voters: “I’ve never picked up a prostitute. My father was never governor. I’ve never committed a crime. So I’m not a typical politician.”
All of the candidates had harsh words for the MTA, including former madam David: “The difference between the MTA and my agency is my agency delivered on time, reliable services.”
Cuomo agreed that the MTA “wastes tremendous amount of money, and nobody’s in charge. ”
“It’s the Mayor, its the Governor, it’s everybody and nobody. Put the Governor in charge,” he said.
Corruption in Albany was also a hot topic. Barron attacked Cuomo for saying he’d be tough on corruption, saying that Cuomo “is selectively going to go against those who are corrupt,” but if you’re a Cuomo supporter, “he will let you go.”
Davis had a more graphic take: “The career politicians in Albany are the biggest whores in this state. I might be the only person sitting on this podium qualified to deal with them.”
McMillan, meanwhile, was on message as the Rent Is Too Damn High candidate. “At the end of the day,” he said, “our children will have no where to live. That is what I’m fighting for. As a karate expert, I will not talk about anyone up here,” because the real problem is that “the rent is too damn high.”
Cuomo joked: “I’m with Jimmy, the rent is too damn high”
In response to a question on the environment, Cuomo also said he supports “exploring renewables” and promoting green jobs. But Barron pounced on Cuomo for not saying that he would ban hydro-fracking in New York, accusing Cuomo of kow-towing to his friends with business in the hydro-fracking industry.
Redlich said he would actually defend Cuomo on this one: “Most of his contributions don’t come from hydrofrackers, they come from real estate interests in New York City.”
Redlich also hit Paladino, calling him out for “behavior in the campaign” that’s going to “keep a lot of people home.” But, he said, people should come out and vote not just for him, but for others who can help bring “the change we need to Washington.”
Paladino did get some applause when he talked about New York’s education system. “We have to recognize the shame of taking hundreds and thousands of five and six year olds and putting them into totally dysfunctional urban schools,” he said, adding that “we need school choice. We need more charter schools.”
Cuomo agreed on the need for education reform: “The inequity in education is probably the civil rights issue of our time.”
Finally, the candidates were asked if they support same sex marriage. All of the candidates said that they support it, except for Paladino, who said he doesn’t, and Barron, who said the Freedom Party has not taken a position. McMillan said, “if you want to marry a shoe, marry her.”
Barron used his closing statement to tell voters not too let Cuomo scare them with “boogeyman” talk — that if they don’t vote for Cuomo, Paladino will win the race.
Paladino, meanwhile, addressed some of the drama of his campaign: “My critics they want to say I’m angry. No, I’m passionate about saving New York.”