The Democratic candidate for governor may have been the only one on Thursday not offering an opinion about his outspoken Republican opponent. NY1's Josh Robin filed the following report.
State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo held his first public event Thursday since he found out he’ll be facing Carl Paladino in November’s gubernatorial election, but he held his tongue when it came to attacking the fiery Republican.
Cuomo seems to be letting surrogates do the attacking, and refuses to condemn Paladino's blunt and sometimes offensive statements. That includes the Paladino's vow to take a baseball bat to Albany, or his admitting to forwarding racially- and sexually-charged e-mails.
Speaking in Downtown Manhattan today, Cuomo also declined to comment on Paladino's comparison of State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, an orthodox Jew, to Adolf Hitler.
"l don't know Mr. Paladino, and I don't think my characterization is all that relevant or appropriate, you know,” said Cuomo. “That's why we have a democracy, that's why we have elections. And the people of the state are going to tell you what they think."
Paladino himself made clear in a brief interview in Buffalo Thursday that he is trying to get Cuomo to engage in a debate.
"We will continue to call him out, to address the issues, to the people. Obviously he's acting as if he doesn't want to debate," said the Republican candidate.
Cuomo announced he is open to a debate both Paladino and Rick Lazio, the Conservative Party nominee who Paladino trounced in Tuesday's Republican primary. However, it appears Cuomo is not interested in being sucked into a heated back-and-forth.
"'Racist' and 'bigoted' are loaded concepts and loaded words. I believe [Paladino] himself said that they were at a minimum inappropriate," Cuomo said.
In contrast, Governor David Paterson, speaking at a Wall Street Journal-sponsored event in Manhattan today, said he was deeply offended by the racist and pornographic e-mails Paladino admitted to forwarding. These included images of bestiality, and another showing a doctored picture President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama dressed as a prostitute and pimp.
Former Governor Eliot Spitzer, who also appeared in the forum with former Governor George Pataki, said of Paladino's rhetoric, "It's not useful politics, it's not useful discourse."
Examples of Cuomo's Rose Garden strategy were everywhere, even in the choice for Thursday's venue. The outgoing state attorney general chose his Financial District offices for his first post-Primary Day event, and Cuomo worked in an announcement on his ongoing pension fund probe.
Cuomo was pressed on Paladino's platform, but declined to be as specific as the Republican has been, including calling for state layoffs. Paladino has talked about cutting the state budget by one-fifth, although he has not laid out exactly where.
"But before you can come up with a specific number, I think you need to know the numbers," said Cuomo.
Paladino called it an excuse.
"We don't feel that he has the intestinal fortitude to come out and tell people how he feels about the issues because he has some serious conflicts," said the Republican. "He wants to be the best of both worlds. He wants to be the liberal progressive but he wants to put the sheep's clothing on."
When it comes to his successor, Cuomo turned some heads by refusing to endorse the Democrats' pick, Eric Schneiderman, to be the next attorney general.
Cuomo is trying to appeal across party lines, trying to encourage a Republican defection to his camp; although it seems highly unlikely that Cuomo would actually endorse any Republicans in lower-party races.