Testy Confrontation Between Incumbent and Challenger for Governor’s Seat

BY KATHY KAHN

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who continually dodged a public forum with challenger Marcus Molinaro, finally agreed to a debate on CBS, which aired Tuesday evening.

Trading barbs back and forth, Cuomo repeatedly interrupted Molinaro, asking him if he supported President Donald Trump. “I didn’t invite Trump to my engagement party, Governor,” countered Molinaro. “You did.”

From contesting the release of convicted felons, including those who have murdered police officers or are habitual sex offenders, Cuomo said he held no sway over the NYS Parole Board—even though he appointed them. Cuomo said he had no part in releasing Herman Bell, but decided to reinstate the parolee’s voting rights “to re-integrate them into society.” Molinaro pointed out that sex offenders will be going to schools to vote and Cuomo shot back, “Only after 7:00p.m.” Molinaro asked Cuomo if he ever took his children to school, “because my children are there many nights after classes are over.”

The pair also clashed on “Medicare for All,” proposed by Cuomo, which would double the state’s current $168 billion budget. “Trump only wants healthcare for the wealthy,’ said Cuomo. Molinaro disagreed, calling Cuomo out for giving Crystal Run Health Care a whopping $24.5 million grant after it had already broken ground on two sites in the Hudson Valley.

“After you gave Crystal Run the grant,” said Molinaro, “you had a closed-door conference with its top executives.” Molinaro suggested that conference generated more than $400,000 in contributions from corporate members and physicians in campaign contributions to Cuomo. Molinaro has publicly stated he expects Cuomo, like his closest aides already found guilty of fraud, money laundering and “pay to play” activity, will be the next official in Albany to be indicted.

Medical marijuana was also on the agenda, with Cuomo accusing Molinaro of being against its legalization. Molinaro said he was against it over a decade ago when he was in the NYS Assembly, but said the medical community has given him a different outlook on it becoming legal. As of this writing, it is still a Schedule 1 drug—something the federal government is now considering removing from the list—making those who need it most finding it impossible to get because their insurance will not pay for it. Many cannot afford the out-of-pocket costs associated with medical cannabis products.

Both agreed that charter schools should be encouraged, with Molinaro adding vocational trades should be reinstated in schools.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority, which taxes every county it serves by train, was another bone of contention between Cuomo and Molinaro. Cuomo, smiling, said he’d “Sit down with Mayor DeBlasio over a glass of wine and some pasta” to straighten out the bloated entity. Molinaro, clearly vexed by Cuomo’s blasé attitude, said Cuomo has let the MTA get out of control and even ordered the “grand opening” of the Second Avenue subway before fire extinguishers were installed.

Despite Cuomo’s 20-point lead some surveys have given him over Molinaro, his challenger seemed in control and objected several times to Cuomo interrupting him and making frivolous comments that had nothing to do with the actual questions put to him.

Like all things political, who shows up to vote on Election Day is the key factor, despite the slew of mailings, debates and campaign signs. Don’t forget to get to the polls on Tuesday, November 6. They are open 6:00a.m. and 9:00p.m. across New York.

The debate took place earlier on CBS880AM radio and was later re-broadcast on ABC TV at 7:00p.m. so the voters could see the two candidates in action.

The League of Women Voters will also hold a debate on Thursday, November 1 for upstate residents, where more than 20 counties are still suffering from the Great Recession. Molinaro accepted, but as of this writing, Cuomo has refused to debate Molinaro again.