BOLTON LANDING, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The intense battle for governor of New York erupted Wednesday night in an angry exchange between one of the candidates and a reporter before aides separated the two men.
If he was trying to burnish his reputation as the Buffalo bomb thrower, the tough guy who said he’d take a baseball bat to Albany to clean it up, Carl Paladino took a few steps backwards after he got in the face of New York Post State Editor Fred Dicker.
Then not 24 hours later, Paladino too another swipe at Democratic opponent Andrew Cuomo, accusing him of taking a “payoff” while he was Housing and Urban Development secretary during the Clinton Administration.
Paladino cited a company sued by the federal government and run by developer Andrew Farkas, who later hired Cuomo for $1.2 million and remains a top campaign contributor.
Cuomo insisted there has never been a quid pro quo for his work as HUD secretary, his subsequent employment as a Farkas adviser or for campaign contributions from Farkas, now his campaign finance chairman.
Paladino and Dicker entered their war of words after Dicker challenged the Republican-Conservative candidate to provide proof of an allegation he made concerning Cuomo’s marriage.
“I’ll take you out, buddy,” Paladino told Dicker.
“How ya gonna do that?” Dicker responded.
“Watch,” was his answer.
Paladino said he would provide proof “at the appropriate time,” then accused Dicker of being biased for Cuomo.
“You’re his stalking horse, Fred Dicker. You’re his stalking horse,” Paladino said as he thrusted his finger in the reporter’s face. “You’re his bird dog. You send another goon to my daughter’s house and I’ll take you out, buddy.”
Paladino accused Dicker of sending a photographer to follow the 10-year-old daughter he fathered outside of wedlock.
“I don’t send bird dogs to do my dirty work,” Paladino said.
Political scientist Doug Muzzio was shocked by Paladino’s outburst.
“It’s wild, it’s absolutely wild the lack of real control this guy has over himself and his campaign,” Muzzio said.
The Baruch College professor said he believes the blow-up will hurt the Republican’s chance in the race.
“There’s a difference between reality TV and governoring the state of New York,” Muzzio said.
However, Republican political pundit Joseph Mercurio issued caution.
Asked if he was fit to be governor, 40 percent said “yes” and 48 percent said “no.” When told about some of his hard-hitting comments, the “no” count rose to 58 percent.
In the same poll, 67 percent said Cuomo is fit to be governor.
Team Paladino issued a statement Thursday saying the only way for voters to judge the fitness of these two men to be governor is if Cuomo and Paladino face each other in a debate.
Cuomo’s people did not return calls seeking comment about the two men debating.