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Candidates Prepare For First NY Governor’s Debate

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Andrew Cuomo, Carl Paladino

Andrew Cuomo, left, (AP Photo/David Goldman, File); Carl Paladino, right, (AP Photo/Don Heupel)

ALBANY (AP) — As a seven-way debate drew near in the New York governor’s race, the candidates continued sniping at one another through their surrogates as Democrat Andrew Cuomo and Republican Carl Paladino privately rehearsed for Monday’s televised forum.

Cuomo’s campaign released a new TV ad claiming that Paladino would take away rights and that victims of rape and incest would be denied abortions that are now legal.

Paladino, who is Catholic, has said he personally opposes abortion. He said he would advocate against abortion, but changing abortion laws is not a legislative priority compared with the state’s fiscal and ethical crises. He said abortion isn’t an issue in the campaign, but simply a way for Democrats to energize their base.

In New York, abortion rights are protected by a supermajority in the Democrat-led Assembly. Even most Republicans in the Assembly and Senate support abortion rights.

Cuomo’s ad uses images of medical examination rooms with distraught women, presumably victims of rape or incest who became pregnant as a result of the crimes against them. It states that Paladino would make the women “victims a second time. You would have fewer rights, not more.”

Cuomo’s ad seeks ti appeal to the Democratic base on a core issue for the party at a time when a Republican tide supporting tea party candidates like Paladino is threatening Democrats once thought to be easily elected.

Paladino also released a video, “Behind the Scenes,” featuring himself and supporters that seeks to portray him as a thoughtful, sensitive man of the people needed by a state in crisis gripped by professional politicians.

“I’m in constant contact with Joe Citizen out there — Joe and Josephine Citizen,” Paladino says, looking at the camera.

It isn’t a TV commercial, but a low-cost production that the campaign is trying to spread by e-mail among supporters and potential supporters. “The vast majority of the mainstream media has been completely unfair to Carl Paladino during this campaign,” the e-mail message says.

Each campaign is in the midst of state TV ad campaigns costing more than $1 million.

Meanwhile, the candidates planned parties for supporters statewide to watch the first and only scheduled debate of the race. The evening debate will be carried statewide from Hofstra University on Long Island through cable television systems and National Public Radio.

The 90-minute debate will include Cuomo and Paladino, Charles Barron of the Freedom Party, Kristin Davis, the former “Manhattan madam,” of the Anti-Prohibition Party; Howie Hawkins of the Green Party, Jimmy McMillan of the Rent is 2 Damn High Party, and Warren Redlich of the Libertarian Party.

That will limit the Paladino-Cuomo debate. But it also will put Paladino, a novice politician, with five others who are expected to target Cuomo, the front-runner.

Cuomo’s campaign also said a New York Daily News article on Sunday shows why voters should consider whether they should trust Paladino.

The article says records show Paladino, a Buffalo developer, failed to disclose that seven of his companies and subsidiaries have gotten $4.2 million in tax breaks on developments in and around Buffalo.

Michael Caputo, Paladino’s spokesman, said the Republican resigned from the boards controlling those properties before he ran for governor and has gotten a legal opinion that states the properties should be excluded from the state disclosure report cited.

Cuomo’s running mate, Rochester Mayor Robert J. Duffy, said Paladino needs to show voters “why they should trust him.”

The Cuomo campaign also criticized Paladino on Saturday for hiring a tea party coordinator, Michael Johns. He once was a spokesman for Republicans who questioned if Democratic President Barack Obama is a U.S. citizen by birth.

Caputo responded saying the new hire was chosen because of his skill in national politics and Paladino believes Obama was born a U.S. citizen, a requirement to be president.

“Paladino’s views resemble the graffiti that gets scrawled on a bathroom stall. He has yet to meet an extremist view he doesn’t embrace,” said Jay Jacobs, chairman of the state Democratic Committee that Cuomo directs.

“The Dem attack dogs have emptied their clip on Carl and now they are firing blanks.” said Caputo, speaking for Paladino. “Carl does not believe that our president was born overseas, nor does he think it matters a hoot in this race.”

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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