Cuomo and Molinaro have different ideas

Little-known Republicans compete for attorney general and comptroller
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and challenger Marc Molinaro
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and challenger Marc Molinaro

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his Republican challenger for governor, Marc Molinaro, have real differences in policy in their visions for the future of New York state.

One believes in staking out New York as a “progressive beacon” against the policies of President Donald Trump, raising wages to aid hourly workers and handing out millions of dollars to economic development projects around the state through an opaque process that includes show biz-style announcements. Hint: That’s not Molinaro.

The other believes individual liberty is best served when government reduces its role, and that cutting taxes so people can spend more of their money as they see fit is the path to a stronger New York economy. Hint: That’s not Cuomo.

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But voters can be forgiven for not realizing how different the candidates’ visions are, given a debate about whether to debate, followed by a single debate in New York City that was full of personal attacks, with no mention of the significant issues facing upstate voters: issues like population loss in Amsterdam and Johnstown, conservation efforts in the Adirondacks and solutions to break the grip of the opioid epidemic on communities large and small.

Molinaro, 43, the Dutchess County executive, faces challenging math: There are more than twice as many enrolled Democrats as Republicans, when you look at the state as a whole. Cuomo, 60, won re-election solidly in 2014, even though most upstate counties went for Republican Rob Astorino.

This year, statewide polls have consistently shown Cuomo far ahead – by 50 percent to 28 percent, according to a late-September Siena College poll. Cuomo also long ago locked in the fundraising lead: Molinaro has raised less than $1.5 million, while Cuomo came into the election season with $31 million.

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While Molinaro is clearly an underdog, informed voters have at least heard of him. The same can’t necessarily be said of other candidates the GOP is putting up for statewide office, Keith Wofford and Jonathan Trichter.

With the attorney general’s office opened by last spring’s resignation of Democrat Eric Schneiderman, it’s certain the next attorney general will be African-American. The Democratic candidate is Letitia “Tish” James, who won a four-way primary in September and would be the second woman to hold the job, after current acting attorney general Barbara Underwood.

James is a New York City public advocate, an elected job that involves oversight of city government departments, and she is a well-known figure in city politics. She has served on the City Council and once headed the Brooklyn office of the state attorney general. She said she will fight public corruption, prosecute abuse of the Wall Street financial system and protect immigrants’ rights.

Wofford grew up in a working-class family in Buffalo, went to Harvard and Harvard Law School and practiced law in New York City for two decades. He said his goals are to fight corruption in state government and improve the state’s business climate.

Trichter is challenging incumbent Democratic state comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, who is seeking his third four-year term. Trichter is an investment banker and municipal finance expert from New York City who believes a closer review of each year’s state budget could result in billions of dollars in savings.

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