Circus-Like Atmosphere, As Cuomo, Paladino Overshadowed

Updated 10/19/2010 7:41 a.m.

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBS 2/WCBS 880/ 1010 WINS) — It’s tough to pick a winner from Monday night’s first — and likely only– debate in the race for New York governor.

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The front-runners found themselves upstaged at Hofstra University by five fring candidates — some spouting a series of bizarre one-liners.

LISTEN: 4 reports from WCBS 880’s Steve Scott
LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ Terry Sheridan reports from Hofstra

As CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reports, the race for governor looked more like the race for a circus ring leader.

In a new poll released Monday, 70 percent of New Yorkers said they are unhappy with the dysfunction in Albany. And this debate probably did nothing to change their minds.

Call it a seven-ring circus.

Jimmy McMillan, of the “Rent Is 2 Damn High” Party, had the same answer to everything from rotten bus and subway service to no jobs and high taxes.

And then there was Manhattan madam Kristin Davis, who said she provided hookers for Eliot Spitzer, who answered a question about the about the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Paladino (L), Cuomo (R) (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

“The key difference between the MTA and my former escort agency is that I operated one set of books and my former agency delivered on-time, reliable service,” Davis said.

The answer might have been tongue in cheek, so to speak, but Davis also called for the legalization of marijuana to raise $2.5 billion to cut the deficit and rejected business taxes.

“Businesses will leave the state quicker than Carl Paladino in a gay bar,” Davis said.

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No, it wasn’t comedy night at the improv. It was the one and only time New Yorkers got to see Democrat Andrew Cuomo and Republican Carl Paladino, plus five third party candidates, debate the pressing issues facing our state.

Libertarian Warren Redlich, who reportedly wants heroin made available to addicts by prescription, offered this solution for creating jobs.

“The money that we waste there comes out of your pockets. Give us 300 bucks and we can do it with a pizza and a six-pack once a month,” Redlich said.

Freedom Party candidate Charles Barron said the way to solve the budget crisis was simply to tax the rich.

“It’s easy to be a political bully and take it out on the poor,” Barron said.

And as for Cuomo and Paladino, they never bothered to answer some of the troubling charges made against them, charges that Cuomo takes special interest money and that Paladino lacks the temperament to be governor.

Instead, they offered platitudes.

“I think the question in this race is who can actually do it? Who can get it done?” Cuomo said.

“My critics, they want to say I’m angry. No, I’m passionate about saving New York,” Paladino said.

Larry Levy is a professor of political science at Hofstra.

“I actually think the minor party candidates did serve a purpose. I mean some of it had a circus air to it. Some were clearly trying to make very, very particular point, but if you didn’t have some of these guys nobody would talk about housing. Nobody would be talking about progressive tax systems,” Levy said.

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After the debate some called for another one, to which some would say only if they agree to run it on Comedy Central.