Gubernatorial hopefuls Andrew Cuomo and Carl Paladino were overshadowed last night as part of a motley crew of candidates who took the stage at Hofstra University for their first — and perhaps only — debate before the Nov. 2 election.
Paladino, running on the Republican line and under fire for his many gaffes, was dazed and confused. Cuomo, the Democratic attorney general, endured barbs from and resisted giggling at fellow candidates, but he came across as impassioned and in command of the issues.
“I know this state like no one on this stage,” he said. “I understand the fear. I understand the anxiety. I understand the disgust at Albany, and I share it.”
The 90-minute event played out more like a forum for the seven candidates than a debate.
Jimmy McMillan, the candidate for the Rent is 2 Damn High Party, stole the show with rapid-fire ranting about poor living conditions.
“Listen. That’s a child’s stomach you hear growling,” he said theatrically.
Paladino is trailing Cuomo by 35 points in the latest New York Times poll largely due to blunders including his anti-gay remarks. He managed to condemn Medicaid waste and education mandates but appeared not to hear or understand the moderators’ questions at times.
He tried to dodge a lightning-round question on whether he’d support gay marriage by saying “It’s very important to people.” Paladino then asked “What?” when prodded for a yes or no answer and conceded that he did not support gay marriage.
Kristin Davis, the ex-madam embroiled in the Eliot Spitzer sex scandal, took the best cheap shot. “Businesses will leave this state quicker than Carl Paladino at a gay bar” if taxes are hiked.
Davis, of the Anti-Prohibition Party, who stuck to seemingly scripted talking points, said she is the only candidate who will raise revenue, though by legalizing marijuana and prostitution.
Warren Redlich, of the Libertarian Party, sold himself as a right-wing alternative to Paladino. Charles Barron, the city councilman and Freedom Party candidate, accused Cuomo of being wedded to special interests. And Howie Hawkins, of the Green Party, demanded that the rich “pay their fair share.”