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ALBANY — Republican candidate for state comptroller Bob Antonacci, who is trying to build a roster of supporters by campaigning at minor league baseball games, is calling on state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to agree to a debate, which could bring far more attention to the challenger.
“Tom DiNapoli has a responsibility to have a frank and public discussion about his tenure in Albany and where he would take this office in the future,” Antonacci said Tuesday at an Albany news conference. He is the Onondaga County comptroller.
"We are reviewing all debate requests in accordance with the comptroller's schedule," said Russell Murphy, spokesman for DiNapoli, a Great Neck Plaza Democrat. "A decision will be made at a later date."
Antonacci and DiNapoli are in a little-watched race for an office few New Yorkers know about. But the comptroller's duties include auditing state and local government for waste and corruption and managing the massive state pension system.
Antonacci said DiNapoli must debate to answer why he hasn't talked about the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption, which is part of a federal investigation. Antonacci also said DiNapoli has to tell New Yorkers why he doesn't audit the Legislature and executive branch to root out corruption.
DiNapoli had no role in the Moreland Commission created and shut down by Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Media reports said the Cuomo administration interfered with the commission as it sought to investigate Cuomo's campaign committee. Cuomo said the input was appropriate and necessary advice.
DiNapoli frequently audits state agencies and spending by lawmakers. He has found systemic problems and abuse by individuals, which he refers to prosecutors. But Antonacci said any reviews haven't been aggressive enough to expose corruption in state government.
“This is where the billions are being stolen,” Antonacci said in front of the state Capitol. “Behind me is where the problem is. That’s where that hidden tax we call corruption comes from. So we need to focus on this building.”
Meanwhile, no debate is yet planned. Antonacci continues his unusual tact of going to voters at baseball games at a time when it would be hard to attract voters to him. He brings along a 6-foot bobblehead balloon of himself, which he transports in the back of his car in trips to ball parks from Buffalo to Brooklyn.
“Baseball is, I believe, a metaphor for what government is all about,” he said. “Nobody can do it alone, we need to band together, but everybody has got to do their part.”
“People don’t go to the GOP barbecue, they don’t go to the Republican town committees, so we need to go out and engage with them, let them know what we are about, and hopefully they will hear our message,” Antonacci said.