Gov race vaults into spotlight

For months, many thought November 2 would be more of a coronation for Andrew Cuomo as the next Governor of New York State. But, some recent polls and increased enthusiasm from Republican and Tea Party voters following Republican candidate Carl Paladino’s stunning primary trouncing of Rick Lazio, have some saying that coronation may be a bit premature.

Paladino, a wealthy Buffalo businessman known for his unscripted and oftentimes controversial remarks, has been receiving significant statewide and national media attention during the two weeks since his primary victory, and some believe he could be ripe to pull off another shocker on Election Day.

“I think he [Paladino] could turn out to be the Jesse Ventura of New York,” said Michael Krasner, a political science professor at Queens College. “People voted for him because he was not one of these button-down, gray, boring and probably duplicitous politicians. People may think that about Cuomo.”

Last week, a Quinnipiac University Poll of likely voters showed Paladino trailing Cuomo by only six points – 49 percent to 43 percent – with 7 percent of voters still undecided. That poll made front page headlines throughout the state, but the following day, a Siena Research Institute Poll of registered voters showed Cuomo ahead of Paladino 57 percent to 24 percent. A Marist Poll that same week had Cuomo with a 52 percent to 33 percent lead among likely voters.

“It may be with a very unusual candidate like Paladino that some people are a little chary about telling people they are going to vote for this guy that some people think is a whacko or a racist or a sexist,” Krasner said, referring to the polls immediately before the September primary that had Paladino in a dead heat with Lazio before he went on to secure a 62 percent to 38 percent win on primary night.

On Monday, September 27, Lazio, who earned the right to run on the Conservative Party line, dropped out of the Governor’s race, and Krasner believes Paladino will find his way onto the Conservative ballot line as well.

Cuomo, who is currently the state’s Attorney General and son of former Governor Mario Cuomo, will likely enjoy support from Queens – the county he was born and raised in and a decidedly Democratic county among registered voters.

“I think Andrew being a son of Queens and someone with a family history and a well known-name is going to work out tremendously to his benefit in Queens, and I expect Andrew Cuomo will resoundingly win in Queens County,” said Democratic Congressmember Joseph Crowley, who is also the head of the Queens Democratic Party.

While Paladino’s base is in upstate New York, the Republican candidate made a rare appearance in the borough on Sunday, September 26, marching in the Howard Beach Columbus Day Parade. Paladino could pick up votes in neighborhoods in northeast and southern Queens that sent Senator Frank Padavan and former Senator Seprhin Maltese to Albany for many years, according to Krasner.

“I think it’s smart,” Krasner said. “Every vote that he gets in these normally Democratic communities really counts for two.”

In addition to vying to be the state’s next chief executive, both Cuomo and Paladino could also play a significant role in the other statewide and local races as their names will appear at the top of the Democratic and Republican ballots, respectively.

“I think it’s always good to have a good candidate at the top, and I think he’s incredibly strong,” Crowley said about Cuomo. “I think it’s going to help people all the way down the ticket.”

Queens Republican Party spokesperson Robert Hornak said Paladino may turn out additional Tea Party voters, who could help some of their candidates, but he believes those races will be run, and won, on the local level.

Statewide, a strong Paladino showing at the top of the Republican ticket could also have major ramifications further down the ballot line in local races as well as control of the State Senate.

“It has implications for the State Legislature, and it makes it more likely that the Republicans will take back the Senate,” said Krasner, who noted that if the Republicans take the Senate back this year they are likely to hold onto it for a while after the redistricting takes place next year.

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