On Wednesday, Carl Paladino went to Albany to accept the nomination of Bill Buckley’s old party — the Conservative Party of New York State — for governor of New York. Paladino was characteristically terse in his acceptance speech, which lasted less than a minute, but I managed to catch up with him at the bar afterwards, and we chatted about the race, Albany, and Andrew Cuomo. Here’s the conversation:
SHAFFER: How’d you like the convention?
PALADINO: I thought it was super.
SHAFFER: What does the Conservative party endorsement mean to you?
PALADINO: The endorsement means that we have another line going into the final. A party whose values I emulate is with me. Some polls say we’re only six behind. This is a competitive race.
SHAFFER: You guys are running an interesting campaign. You’ve sent stinking mail items to symbolize the trash in Albany, etc.
PALADINO: I don’t want to be polite. I don’t think campaigning is polite. That’s a disingenuous effort.
SHAFFER: What’s New York’s biggest problem?
PALADINO: Loss of hope. People are really upside down. They want a government they can trust. They want one that’s not going to raise their taxes by $15 billion and not lay off one state employee.
SHAFFER: New York isn’t doing too well economically. Jobs are leaving the state. Does your experience as a businessman inform your politics?
PALADINO: Buffalo’s problems are a poster-child for the entire state. Our state is way over-taxed. We have so many unnecessary bureaucratic burdens. Our budget was $137 billion for 19 million people. Florida’s was $74 billion for 18.2 million. Do the math.
SHAFFER: How will you bring taxes down 10 percent, as you promise?
PALADINO: I’ll cut them.
SHAFFER: Public sector unions are extremely powerful, though.
PALADINO: Are they really? Why do you say that? That’s your impression. They’ve been allowed access. When they’ve been allowed the access they’ve got, they can be powerful. They won’t have that in my administration.
SHAFFER: What will you do about corruption in Albany?
PALADINO: I’ll appoint a special prosecutor to root out corruption and prosecute them.
SHAFFER: What is Cuomo’s greatest vulnerability?
PALADINO: Lack of character and integrity. Lack of substantive values. An ego. Arrogance. Andrew’s part of the establishment. He’s part of the problem. People know that. He’s going down.
SHAFFER: What do you think the media should ask Cuomo?
PALADINO: I think he should be vetted. They ought to ask him the same questions they ask me, about my personal life. It’ll come soon enough. This will be the last time he will run for office. He’s making his own bed. So far, the press has basically just re-written his press releases and the phone calls they get from him. The press thinks it’s fair to be his bird-dog. I don’t think so.
SHAFFER: Cuomo published an editorial in the New York Daily News acting like he will be a small-government, tough-on-unions type. Is that believable?
PALADINO: Ever been to the zoo?
PALADINO: Ever seen the zebra in the zoo?
PALADINO: Ever seen the zebra change stripes?
PALADINO: I’ve got the same feeling about Cuomo.
SHAFFER: What’s your biggest challenge going forward?
PALADINO: I would really like Andrew to address issues with me. I would like people to see us side-by-side on each one of the issues, and compare us on each. We have 35 days left. I think we should have debates every day. He wants to hide from the press, he doesn’t want to take Q and A, and he won’t tell us what he’s going to do about Obamacare. How does he feel about it, about bringing these huge tax hikes to New York? We want to know, and he won’t answer. He just avoids the press. He knows he can because they’re on his side. They obviously are.
SHAFFER: Today some of your supporters brought up the issue of abortion.
PALADINO: I’m running on economic issues. Social issues aren’t in our interest this year. The people want to know how are we going to end this reckless spending, how are we going to get taxes down so we can expand jobs, expand our business base, give good, fulfilling jobs to our neighbors, and provide an atmosphere where people can feel grounded and tell their kids and grandkids that there’s a future for them in New York. We can avoid these peripheral issues for now.
SHAFFER: Why are so many young people leaving New York?
PALADINO: If you didn’t have a job, you’d probably leave, too.
SHAFFER: How do you think New York became one of the bluest states?
PALADINO: You’ve got Bloomberg down there saying, “America give us all your poor.” We’ve got the most lucrative and generous Medicaid and social services benefits anywhere in the country. What do you think is happening? They’re all coming here. Why are we inviting them? They’re the problem of where they’re coming from or the problem of the federal government. They’re not our problem.