It’s still early but some candidates are raising issues that voters care about in ways that reveal quite a bit about their opponents.
Take the race for governor, the one that polls predict will be a runaway win for Andrew Cuomo over a first-time but well-known opponent, Cynthia Nixon, and a mainstream candidate seeking more name recognition, Marcus Molinaro.
Although the two do not agree on much, they are in sync when it comes to the way the governor has handled the volatile issue of sexual harassment.
While Cuomo lists what he considers to be his achievements, Nixon has a devastating rejoinder: “New York can do much better than re-electing a hypocritical governor who ignores the victims and, instead, chooses to shield those who have been accused.”
She says too many in state government have faced accusations and maintains that there is “a clear pattern of the governor ignoring reports of sexual harassment against his top staff and allies.”
Molinaro acknowledges that the Legislature has passed, and the governor has signed, laws to combat sexual harassment but he agrees with Nixon that the governor “thinks that by checking the box on passing legislation, it absolves what is either deliberate indifference within his own administration or the lack of understanding of how serious a problem this has been within his own government.”
Molinaro raised another substantive issue — “pay to play” in which businesses or their owners trade donations for governmental favors. Federal prosecutors are investigating allegations concerning substantial donations to Cuomo from Crystal Run Healthcare and its management and a subsequent state grant to the organization of $25.4 million. Both sides deny any link but Molinaro has used the example to propose a statewide ban on campaign contributions from state contractors, a measure that goes beyond the local limitation that Orange County Legislator Mike Anagnostakis, a Town of Newburgh Republican, succeeded in getting passed and has struggled to defend.
Now, as a candidate for state Senate, Anagnostakis is promoting another measure designed to reduce the influence of money on government, calling for state legislators to live solely on their generous salaries and benefits, roughly $100,000 a year with staff support and expansive expense accounts, by enacting a ban on outside income. That is a stand that the Democrat running for the seat, James Skoufis, endorsed earlier.
Another Republican running for the Senate, Tom Basile of Stony Point, doesn’t see it that way. Although former Speaker Sheldon Silver used his outside job to enrich himself in the most blatant display of corruption in many years in a state with many examples, Basile thinks that banning outside jobs would be a bad idea.
In a state with an average annual salary under $70,000, Basile believes that generous pay for lawmakers, the third highest in the nation, is not enough because they would be “so reliant on their government job to pay their taxes and support their families.”
That should come as an insult to those in Orange County, where the average salary is $71,900, and even in his wealthier home county of Rockland where the average is $86,100, both well below the state legislative level.