By Kathy Kahn
In an election year, smears, jeers and cheers dominate the political headlines, but perhaps the lst offensive to those who live in Rockland County is Governor Andrew Cuomo’s release of 30,000 convicted felons—including those who killed three police officers during the Brinks robbery at the Nanuet Mall in 1981—and restoring their voting rights in time for the general election on Tuesday, November 6.
Cuomo, seeking a third term, has the campaign funds—and the political clout as incumbent—to ignore his Republican rival, Marcus Molinaro. Cuomo debated his Democratic rival, Cynthia Nixon, before the September primary, but has turned his back on repeated requests to meet Molinaro face-to-face.
Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul have been busy traversing the state between Buffalo, New York City and Long Island. For the most part, however, both have bypassed the region of the state lying between the Atlantic Ocean and Niagara Falls, save for the extravaganza put on for the “newly renamed” Tappan Zee Bridge, which ended up being put on hold due to problems with the demolition of the old structure next to the new bridge.
Molinaro may not have the campaign funding his rival does, but he has made up for it up by visiting counties all across the state to meet residents and business owners to get the word out about what he has to offer and what he’d like to change in the political quagmire of Albany.
On October 15, Molinaro released a statement saying he believes he’s being ignored because of Cuomo’s connections with $400,000 in campaign financing received Crystal Run Health Care. (Crystal Run received NYS grants totaling $24.5 million.) “It is my firm belief that Andrew Cuomo will soon be indicted over the Crystal Run scandal and is terrified to speak about the case in a free and open debate forum where he may further incriminate himself,” Molinaro said.
Molinaro pointed to an article in the Albany Times Union stating Crystal Run executives were in direct communication with state officials involved in the grant-making process and held a private meeting while grants were being considered. Molinaro also pointed to Cuomo’s closest aides and confidantes, particularly his “other brother,” Joseph Percoco, along with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, calling Cuomo’s administration “the most corrupt in a century, with eight of his donors and close confidantes now awaiting jail time…Cuomo wants nothing more than to avoid talking about it.”
Molinaro also appeared on television with the widow of NYC Police Officer Joseph Piagentini, tortured and then murdered by Herman Bell, who was released from prison and had his voting rights restored, with his widow, Diane, saying that Cuomo refused to meet with her and her family before giving Bell the pardon. The PBA and NYC Mayor Bill DiBlasio blasted Cuomo for the move, with Cuomo retorting, “If I had been on the parole board, I would have voted against it.” Ironically, Piagentini’s widow says two of the three parole board members were personally appointed by Cuomo.
With 21 days left until Election Day, the League of Women Voters is preparing to hold a debate with Molinaro and have a chair ready for Cuomo—even if he declines to take a seat.