New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended his handling of the economy and government corruption under sharp criticism from Republican Rob Astorino Wednesday night during the only scheduled debate of the governor’s race.
Astorino, the Westchester County executive, said Cuomo has failed to energize the state’s economy since taking office in 2011. He said Cuomo hasn’t done enough to take on corruption, and predicted that Cuomo himself “may be indicted” following allegations that his administration meddled with an anti-corruption commission.
“Four years ago Andrew Cuomo pretended to be the reformer,” Astorino said. “Unfortunately right now he is swimming in the cesspool of corruption.”
Cuomo, a Democrat, dismissed Astorino as too conservative for the state. He cited his work to pass tax cuts and economic development programs that he said are helping the economy to rebound.
“When you remember where we were and you look at where we are now there’s no doubt the state is better off,” he said.
Cuomo dismissed Astorino’s allegations of corruption, calling it a desperate and uninformed move by his opponent. The governor noted that Astorino has been questioned by federal authorities over a housing desegregation settlement in Westchester County.
Polls show Cuomo is well ahead in the race. For Astorino, the debate provided a critical opportunity to put Cuomo on the defensive less than two weeks before the Nov. 4 election.
Two third-party candidates also participated in the debate.
Libertarian Michael McDermott criticized the major party candidates and urged voters to carefully consider their options.
“Democrats and Republicans are the problem,” he said. “Just vote Libertarian, one time.”
Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins voiced opposition to hydraulic fracturing and said the state needs to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“I wish this was the first of several debates,” Hawkins said. “We’ve barely touched on the issues.”
Additional debates were proposed, but Wednesday’s exchange was the only one that Cuomo and Astorino agreed to. The debate was sponsored by The Buffalo News, WNED-TV and WBFO-FM. It was televised statewide on public television.