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Debate Focuses on Corruption, Fracking, Housing Discrimination Charges

Governor Cuomo shakes hands with challenger Rob Astorino before the debate
Governor Cuomo shakes hands with challenger Rob Astorino before the debate

Four of the candidates for governor of New York faced off in an hour long debate Wednesday night, where they discussed a number of key issues, and the two major party candidates traded charges of lying,  and even racism.

Governor Cuomo , a Democrat, Republican Rob Astorino, Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins and the Libertarian Party’s  Michael McDermott talked about hydro fracking,  legalizing marijuana and ,being in Buffalo- the Bills football team.

But the topic that drew some of the sharpest comments was corruption -and Governor Cuomo’s Moreland Act Commission. The panel had begun investigating the legislature, but Cuomo disbanded it as part of a budget deal. The US Attorney is investigating whether Cuomo’s staff interfered with any of the probes.

The governor saying he was glad to clear up  “a lot of misinformation”, says the Syracuse area DA that co chaired the panel, William Fitzpatrick  made all the decisions on probes independently, and Cuomo denied he ended the panel early.

“There was no abrupt stopping,” said Cuomo, who said the purpose of the commission was to get a law passed curbing corruption. “ I said to the legislature when you pass the law, the commission will go way. They passed the law.”

Astorino, who has criticized Cuomo over the handling of the commission, jumped right in, saying the Democrat is “swimming in a cesspool of corruption” .

“So you’re looking at Andrew Cuomo the rest of tonight, you will see a person who very well may be indicted after this election day comes and goes,” Astorino said. “We’ve seen this before in New York. It has to come to an end.”

Cuomo, who has maintained a distance from his opponents up until now, also challenged Astorino, who is Westchester County Executive, directly, bringing up a federal lawsuit against Westchester charging housing discrimination. Cuomo called Astorino’s statements “outrageous”, and says the same US Attorney that Astorino was quoting, Preet Bharara  has accused the County Executive  of giving “numerous false and misleading” statements, and has been ordered to give a videotaped statement under oath, with the penalty of perjury.

“That’s federal speak for ‘you’re lying”,” Cuomo said.

Astorino has said he is fighting the federal government because he wants to maintain local control in housing decisions in Westchester, a county where Cuomo lives as well.

“Shame on Governor Cuomo for playing the race card,” Astorino retorted.

Libertarian McDermott says he’s heard too many charges and counter charges about corruption, in numerous TV ads run by the Democrats and the Republicans.

“And I’ll tell you, I’m tired of it,” said McDermott who wants regular New Yorkers need to get more involved in the political process .

“New Yorkers have to decide for themselves, who’s corrupt, who’s not corrupt,” McDermott said. “I know one thing. I’m not corrupt.”

The Green Party’s Hawkins says he would restart the Moreland Commission and start new corruption probes.

On fracking, Libertarian McDermott opposes it, until he says, it can be proven safe. Green Party candidate Hawkins, says if he were governor, fracking would not happen.

“We should ban fracking because it’s danger to the climate,” Hawkins said. “And it does pollute the water and the land. We already know that from what we’ve seen in Pennsylvania and around the country.”

Hawkins accused Governor Cuomo’s Administration of  editing and delaying a US Geological Study that drew some politically inconvenient conclusions for Cuomo.

Astorino says the state should have begun fracking years ago, and he says economically depressed regions of the state like the southern tier would already be benefiting.

“I won’t be politically paralyzed like this governor is,” said Astorino who said 35 states are “ safely drilling and their economies are booming.”.

Governor Cuomo, asked what will happen with fracking over the next four years, did not directly answer- but he did say that a more than two year old health review will be completed by the end of this year, but not before Election Day.

“Let the experts decide,” Cuomo said. “Whatever the experts say is right, that’s what I will do, because frankly it’s too complicated for a layman.”

Candidates were also asked whether they would raise tolls on the Thruway or on the new Tappan Zee Bridge, which is under currently under construction.

Astorino says he’d use money from the state’s $5 billion dollars windfall surplus from Wall Street settlements to offset tolls.

Cuomo says he would not raise Thruway tolls, and says the new charges on the Tappan Zee Bridge will be “affordable for the commuters”.

Hawkins says he’d rather focus on public transportation,  McDermott says he would not raise tolls, either.

The candidates were asked about fully legalizing marijuana, this time Cuomo and Astorino agreed that while limited medical marijuana is OK, it’s not the time for recreational marijuana, while the Green’s Hawkins and Libertarian’s McDermott say using pot should not be a crime.

The candidates all agreed that there are problems with the new Common Core learning standards. Only Cuomo is  not in favor of abolishing them, but does now say he wants a five year delay of their effects.

And while all four expressed support for the Buffalo Bills football team, three did not offer to have the state pay for a new domed stadium for the Buffalo Bills, a question asked by a voter in a video. The Green’s Hawkins says he’d only consider it if the Bills entered into a co ownership arrangement with the state, similar to the Green Bay Packers, and agree never to leave New York.