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Long IslandPolitics

Opponents on Cuomo: He's 'corrupt'

Republican Rob Astorino and Democrat Zephyr Teachout called

Republican Rob Astorino and Democrat Zephyr Teachout called Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo “corrupt” at a debate the incumbent skipped Thursday. Credit: Newsday / Howard Schnapp / Danielle Finkelstein

Rivals from the right and left called Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo "corrupt" at a forum the incumbent skipped Thursday.

Republican Rob Astorino and Democrat Zephyr Teachout, sharing a common target, criticized the incumbent throughout the 50-minute program on WNYC, a public radio station. They said Cuomo's economic policies haven't improved the state's outlook, that his waffling on natural-gas drilling hasn't resolved the issue, and that his shuttering of an anti-corruption commission was self-serving.

Cuomo campaign officials didn't respond to the criticism. Instead, a flurry of Cuomo surrogates either criticized Teachout for agreeing to debate Astorino or tried to press her on whether she supports Israel in its conflict with Gaza. Teachout hasn't taken a position on Gaza and has said she's "entirely focused" on New York issues.

Cuomo faces Teachout in a Democratic primary Tuesday. The winner faces Astorino, the Westchester County executive, in the fall.

In regard to the anti-corruption panel, widely known as the Moreland Commission, host Brian Lehrer asked each if Cuomo was "corrupt."

"Yes, absolutely," Astorino said. Astorino cited Cuomo's potential interference with the panel, his $35 million campaign fund and his use of nearly $200 million in state money to tout the state's business climate.

"When I talk about corrupt, I mean somebody who is self-serving when they should be serving the public," Teachout said. "But unfortunately, his behavior, continually serving his own interests ahead of the public, regardless of your ideology, suggests that, at heart, he is what we typically call corrupt."

During the debate, Astorino and Teachout both opposed Common Core academic standards and testing, saying the state should discontinue them. Cuomo has backed Common Core but criticized its rollout.

Cuomo so far has refused to participate in any debates, but other Democrats rushed into the fray Thursday.

While Astorino and Teachout spoke, the Cuomo administration sent out announcements on tax cheats, ethics cases, solar energy grants and bills the governor had signed.

Several Democratic officials -- including two who broke party ranks to help Republicans keep control of the State Senate -- attacked Teachout for participating in the debate, saying she shouldn't have given Astorino a forum for his "extreme conservative" views. "If Zephyr Teachout actually cares about Democrats, she should stop doing debates that elevate an extreme conservative," said Senate co-leader Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), who left the party's Senate conference and formed a power-sharing coalition in 2011 with the GOP, angering liberal Democrats.

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