Where's Andrew? Cuomo's four challengers debate without him

Where's Andrew? Cuomo's four challengers debate without him

NY Daily News: November 1, 2018

“Shame on Andrew Cuomo for not coming here,” Hawkins said during his closing argument, drawing applause from his fellow candidates and those in the crowd.


By Kenneth Lovett

ALBANY — Gov Cuomo Thursday evening skipped a gubernatorial debate in Albany — but he was hardly forgotten by his four challengers, who took aim at him for what they called his “pay-to-play” policies.

Republican Marc Molinaro, Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins, Libertarian candidate Larry Sharpe and former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner of the newly created Save American Movement Party all agreed to attend the debate sponsored by the state League of Women Voters at the College of St. Rose in downtown Albany.

“Shame on Andrew Cuomo for not coming here,” Hawkins said during his closing argument, drawing applause from his fellow candidates and those in the crowd.

Cuomo last week debated Molinaro one-on-one. He has refused all other invitations.

“The governor will be spending the final days of the campaign speaking directly with voters and helping to elect Democrats up and down the ticket,” Cuomo campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said.

While his challengers debated Thursday evening, Cuomo was conducting a telephone town hall that was not announced publicly, his aides said.

Meanwhile, Molinaro, Miner, Hawkins and Sharpe during the 90-minute debate ripped Cuomo on his economic development policies, his handling of sexual harassment claims within his administration, the condition of the MTA, and a free-tuition program that impacts some public college students.

“I think Andrew Cuomo’s free college tuition program is emblematic of his approach to government—it was great optics, it was a great press release, and a great event,” Miner said. “But when you look at who is able to take advantage of it, just a bare number of people are able to do that.”

Molinaro, Cuomo’s chief rival, and the other three candidates all committed to doing away with direct subsidies to businesses, which have been the centerpiece of Cuomos’ economic development record.

Sharpe called Cuomo’s regional economic development councils — which require to compete against each other for state project funding — “a petri dish for corruption” that reward party loyalists and donors.

Each of the four candidates also made it clear they have little interest in reviving a part of Cuomo’s SAFE Act gun control law that has yet to be implemented — the creation of an ammunition database by state police.

Molinaro, who is also running on the state Conservative party line, said he would support transgender-inclusive health care — even though as a state legislator he voted against a bill that would have made it a crime to discriminate against transgender people.

“Every individual regardless how they identify or express or who they love, deserve protection of the Constitution and the laws of the state of New York,” Molinaro said. “As governor, it will be my responsibility to ensure that.”

He said if the federal government rolls back Obama-era transgender protections, “I would want to move in with the state Legislature to ensure the state of New York endeavors to protect those rights.”

Asked if he supports a bill to outlaw discrimination against transgender people, Molinaro answered: “I haven’t read the newest version” but “I’m willing to negotiate with the state Legislature the appropriate policy to ensure there’s adequate protections.”

Because the debate did not include Cuomo, it was not televised. Instead, it was live streamed by the League of Women Voters.

With Tuesday’s election fast approaching, polls show Cuomo with a large lead over Molinaro.

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