I have mixed feelings on this evening’s New York State gubernatorial forum with all the third party candidates. On the one hand, I think it was great to have a diverse set of voices. Third party candidates who don’t have a chance to actually win, but want to get their parties on the ballot for the next four years (they need 50,000 votes for the gubernatorial candidate to do that), can offer sharper answers than the two main candidates. And, they provide a great deal of entertainment. On the other hand, it reduces the number of possible questions as the moderators must provide time for everyone to answer, and it means less back and forth between the two major candidates. It’s also pretty easy for a candidate to stick to his or her own mantra and ignore what the others are saying.
But let’s talk about the entertainment factor. Jimmy McMillan is the hands down winner there. His party name, Rent is Too Damn High, was equally entertaining. While most of the third party candidates were generally well defined in terms of their ideologies, McMillan was all over the map. He can’t be placed anywhere on an ideological line in my view, which was great. Of course, most of his statements ended with the predictable “Rent is too damn high!” line, which was genuinely humorous. At one point he claimed to be a one-issue candidate, but he did talk about a number of issues….just summarizing almost everything up with “Rent is too damn high!” And did I really hear him say he wanted to split Upstate New York from Downstate?
Howie Hawkins of the Green Party, who came across as angry in my view, could have his whole platform summarized as “Tax the rich!” He even addressed the concern some people have about the rich moving to any of a number of other states if their taxes skyrocketed: Other people will come here to NY to get rich in that case. Um, okay, Howie. The format of the debate did not allow Mr. Hawkins to explain how that might actually work. I found his plan to do runoffs and select up to four preferred gubernatorial candidates interesting….if one is a trial lawyer. Still, though, for liberal ideals, he definitely is the real deal and we need some ideologically pure candidates. Liberals ought to consider him over Andrew Cuomo. And I liked that he certainly gave criticism to the candidate who was almost pretending to be a conservative: Andrew Cuomo.
But when it comes to criticism of Andrew Cuomo, nobody did a better job than Freedom Party candidate Charles Barron (other than perhaps Warren Redlich). Accusing Cuomo of being selective in his prosecutions as attorney general, Barron held nothing back. And in some cases, he even gave Howie Hawkins a run for his money in terms of liberalism. In fact, this specifically had to do with money. When a question came up about cuts, Barron claimed we are “cut to the bone” and ultimately indicated he would not cut anything. Barron told people not to waste their vote on Democrat Andrew Cuomo. He instead asked people to vote for his party to help get it on the ballot. I agree: liberals should not waste a vote on Andrew Cuomo. They definitely should pick one of the third party liberal candidates.
Kristin Davis of the Anti-Prohibition Party had some great one-liners. In some cases, she made some good points. But I can’t agree with her major positions supporting legalization of marijuana, gambling, etc. Unlike some of the other third party candidates, she acknowledged she is not going to actually be in the governor’s office.
Libertarian candidate Warren Redlich, like Charles Barron, had a lot to say about Cuomo. I liked his remark about Cuomo and transparency: getting a $55,000 donation from a “parking lot” is not exactly transparency. Redlich reminded us of the number of people working for the state who make six figures, and in particular, the enormous salary of the head of the NYS Library. I can’t agree with Redlich’s social positions, but would likely find myself in agreement with many of his economic positions.
I really liked the idea of letting the third party candidates’ voices be heard. They went right after Cuomo, allowing Republican Carl Paladino to focus on issues. Had Paladino criticized Cuomo, the media would have latched on and called him "angry." Of course, this format unfortunately came with the cost of fewer questions and less of an opportunity to delve into the issues. Even if there were no serious fireworks, there was a sharpness that might not have existed with just the two major candidates. This might have been better if there were two or three debates held so that a number of different questions could be asked. Still, hopefully liberals will choose to look at these candidates and consider their positions. But still, my all time favorite was Jimmy McMillan. He likely won’t get the governor’s office, but perhaps some other opportunity will come of his performance.