My head is still spinning from Monday’s prime time political extravaganza, the alleged debate between the seven candidates for Governor of NY. Broadcast live from Hofstra University on TV and on NPR, it was more of a reality show or infotainment than debate. Of course, around here we never get ‘debates’, we typically get smarmy sound-bites from major party candidates only, with no air time at all for any of the lesser-party representatives.
All that changed on Monday.
On the stage, in addition to Dem front-runner Andrew Cuomo and Tea Partier-pseudo-Republican Carl Paladino were: Kristin Davis, a former madam representing the Anti-Prohibition party; Warren Redlich, a Libertarian attorney/entrepreneur; Howie Hawkins, a hometown Syracuse guy who is always offered up by the Green Party; Charles Barron, a former Black Panther and now NYC politician from the Freedom Party, and Jimmy McMillan, the larger-than-life representative of the Rent is Too Damn High party. Seriously.
There was a lot of silliness, and gentle ribbing, and posturing, and fun-having by the minor parties, with digs aimed at both Cuomo and Paladino from pretty much everyone on the stage. McMillan tied everything to ‘the rent is too damn high’, at one point causing Cuomo to laugh out loud, something the audience did regularly. Somehow, for the most part, the moderators stayed reasonably in control, and for that they have my admiration.
Davis wants to legalize marijuana and casino gambling, to bring in about $4 billion in new revenue, 50,000 new jobs….and countless other problems, which she didn’t get into, naturally. She is a former madam, however, and has a track record of delivering services on time. Former Governor Steamroller Spitzer can allegedly attest to her business acumen.
Redlich wants smaller government, and he was true to that throughout. Barron and Hawkins had many similar positions, including their union support. They favor progressive taxation as did most of the other minor party candidates, and everyone thinks we need to do more about education – although there were some differences on how best to effect change.
Paladino and Cuomo tried hard not to make a mess of things; Cuomo was successful, Paladino seemed less so, stumbling over his speaking points and frequently running out of time. They tried to stick to their scripts without controversy, and I think folks can forgive Paladino his hasty trip to the men’s room during the closing statement round.
In the end, we didn’t learn much about the folks most likely to win – but we learned that there are lots of other voices out there, and somehow, someone found them and invited them to the show. I loved the pilot for "The Real Gubernatorial Candidates of NY" -- it’s too bad we are never likely to see Episode Two.