Karen DeWitt

Capitol Bureau Correspondent, Albany

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.

She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now.  She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers. 

Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.

She is a past recipient of the prestigious Walter T. Brown Memorial award for excellence in journalism, from the Legislative Correspondents Association, and was named Media Person of the Year for 2009 by the Women’s Press Club of New York State.

Karen is a graduate of the State University of New York at Geneseo.

Ways to Connect

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The state’s mayors are moving away from a state aid program for localities that they say has not been well-funded in recent years and trying a new way to get the governor’s and the Legislature’s attention as the 2019 state budget season approaches. 

For decades, mayors have received state aid for their cities through the Aid and Incentives to Municipalities program, or AIM. But funding has been flat in recent years, even though cities’ expenses have been steadily growing, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo tried to hold the line on state spending increases.

WRVO News (file photo)

It’s been 20 years since the governor and the Legislature in New York received a pay raise. But that might be changing in January. A panel formed to determine future pay for lawmakers is holding hearings and will make a recommendation by Dec. 10.

Since 1998, there’s been no change to the base pay of $79,500 per year for senators and Assembly members, although many make several thousand dollars more a year in stipends for leadership posts or for chairing committees. They also receive $174 to cover expenses every day that they are in Albany on business. 

nysenate.gov

State Senate GOP Leader John Flanagan was re-elected as the leader of the Republicans in that chamber on Friday, surviving a challenge from upstate Sen. Cathy Young of Olean.

But come January, he’ll be in charge of the minority party. In elections earlier this month, Democrats won enough seats to take control of the Senate for only the third time in the last century. 

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Progressive-leaning groups said Wednesday that now that more Democrats have been elected to the state Senate, they’ll hold the legislators’ feet to the fire in January to ensure that measures like bail reform and legalizing marijuana are swiftly enacted into law.

New York State Senate

When the state Legislature convenes for the 2019 session, one of the first items that’s expected to be voted on is the Reproductive Health Act. It would codify the abortion rights in the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade into New York state law.

Andrea Stewart-Cousins / Facebook

State Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who will become the first woman and African-American woman to lead the New York state Senate come January, said she hopes to take action quickly on long stalled measures in the Senate. She predicts that by the 2020 presidential election, New Yorkers will finally have early voting.

Stewart-Cousins will lead largest Democratic majority in the Senate in over a century, with at least 40 Democrats in her conference. 32 are needed to form a leadership coalition.

Gov. Cuomo / Facebook

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was awarded a third term in office by voters, who chose him by a wide margin over his opponents.

Cuomo, in a speech to supporters, said he hopes to "vindicate" the trust New Yorkers have placed in him by electing him to another four-year term. Cuomo promised a continuation of the policies he’s championed in his first eight years in office, including more progressive issues, like equality for women and strengthening unions.

But he also said he will continue his more fiscally conservative polices, like holding the line on taxes and state spending.

Wallyg / via Flickr

Polls show the governor’s race in New York is narrowing as the major party candidates made their final pitch to voters.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s lead over his nearest challenger, Republican Marc Molinaro, decreased to 13 points, from 22 points last month. The Siena College poll found that Cuomo’s favorability rating was the lowest in his eight years as governor, with only 45 percent saying that he’s doing a good job in office. 

New York State Senate

Democrats are leading in the polls in New York’s statewide races for governor, attorney general and comptroller. The most heated contests this Election Day are in the state Senate, where Democrats are trying to win enough seats to take control of the chamber away from Republicans.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

A group that opposes big money in politics has issued a report showing that a handful of billionaires are contributing heavily to Republican congressional campaigns in New York.

Wallyg / Flickr

One of the major party candidates in the New York race for governor has issued a "civility challenge," asking his opponents to refrain from all negative ads and attacks from now until Election Day.

New York Now/NYC Public Advocate's Office

The next Attorney General of the state of New York is very likely to make history. Tish James, the Democratic candidate and current New York City Public Advocate, and the Republican, bankruptcy lawyer Keith Wofford, are African American. But the two hold different views on many topics.

Cuomo/Molinaro campaigns

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his Republican challenger, Marc Molinaro, engaged in a testy debate Tuesday that centered on corruption in state government and the candidate’s views, and relationships, with President Donald Trump.

Cuomo/Molinaro campaigns

After weeks of wrangling, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his Republican opponent, Marc Molinaro, have agreed to a televised debate at 7 p.m. Tuesday on CBS2 in New York City. But not everyone is satisfied.

stgermh / Flickr

Among the statewide races, the contest for state comptroller often gets little attention from voters. But there’s still lots of interest in the post itself — incumbent Tom DiNapoli faces three challengers.

DiNapoli has twice won election to the post, but he was first appointed to the position by the state Legislature in 2007, after the previous comptroller, Alan Hevesi, pleaded guilty to corruption charges.

New York State Senate

The state Senate races are among the closest contests in New York on Nov. 6. Democrats need just one seat to take the majority away from Republicans. Spending on the races is growing intense, and accusations are flying.

Senate Democrats in the past have been outspent by the Republicans, who are in power in the chamber. This year, Democrats still have a smaller campaign account, with about $700,000 still on hand, according to filings with the state Board of Elections. The GOP Senate campaign committee had $2.3 million at the time of the last filing in early October. 

The Metropolitan Club / Facebook

State Democrats and Republicans are accusing each other of condoning violence after a weekend incident that left the GOP’s Metropolitan Club in New York City vandalized and protesters from far-right and far-left groups under arrest.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

The Republican candidate for governor, Marc Molinaro, is weighing in on the Schoharie limousine crash, saying there needs to be more government oversight.

Molinaro said he does not want to make the tragic crash, which took the lives of 20 people, a political issue. When asked by reporters, though, he said laws need to be changed to provide more oversight. The driver of the limousine did not have the proper license, and the limo that crashed had failed inspections multiple times. 

Wofford Campaign

The Republican candidate for attorney general in New York, Keith Wofford, said if he wins, he’d go after the head of his party, President Donald Trump, and his policies — but only if there’s a good reason.

The current attorney general, Barbara Underwood, has dozens of lawsuits on file against Trump, ranging from an investigation of the Trump Foundation to the administration’s environmental policies.

The Democratic candidate for attorney general, New York City Public Advocate Tish James, has said she’d continue those actions.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

 

Candidates for statewide office were required this week to disclose how much money they have on hand for the final month of the 2018 election season. Once again, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is seeking a third term, is far ahead of his challengers.

Mark Dunlea for State Comptroller / Facebook

The Green Party candidate for state comptroller, Marc Dunlea, said he isn’t in the race to win but rather to highlight one key issue — combating climate change.

Dunlea was the longtime director of Hunger Action Network, a lobby group that advocates for services for the poor. He now works for the environmental group 350.org, and he said if he were comptroller, he would immediately divest the state’s pension fund of all investments in fossil fuel companies.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he hasn’t decided whether to accept the nomination of the Working Families Party in the race for governor. The party previously backed actor Cynthia Nixon after a bitter split in the progressive-leaning minor party.

When the party chose Nixon for governor over Cuomo last spring, the argument was heated. Its executive director, Bill Lipton, said Cuomo, in his first two terms in office, did not live up to expectations that the governor would back progressive ideas and policies.

Unshackle Upstate

An independent budget watchdog group agrees with an idea that Republican candidate for governor Marc Molinaro has to help bring down local property taxes. But it also says there is a tradeoff to any potential savings.

Patja / Flickr

A new Siena College poll finds Gov. Andrew Cuomo far ahead of his challengers in his quest for a third term in office. But the survey also shows that a failed primary challenger is still taking points away from the governor’s lead.

Wallyg / via Flickr

Gov. Cuomo does not talk a lot about what his agenda would be if voters give him a third term. He says his record of what he’s done in the past is more important than what he’d do in the future.

In a speech before the state’s Business Council, Cuomo devoted most of a forty minute PowerPoint presentation to listing what he said were his accomplishments during his first two terms in office. They include infrastructure projects like revamping the state fairgrounds and renovating airports.

Rich Mitchell / Flickr

Gov. Cuomo’s former closest aid received a prison sentence Thursday day of six years after being convicted of illegally gaining over $300,000 in bribery schemes.

More talk of Governor Andrew Cuomo seeking the Presidency in 2020 has been fueled by the governor’s decisive victory over a candidate from the progressive left of his party. But the governor still says he’s only running for a third term to lead New York State.

Cuomo beat actor and education advocate Cynthia Nixon by a two to one margin in the September 13th primary, and he has a double digit lead against his Republican challenger in the polls.

The general election for governor in New York is heating up, with the Republican candidate, Marc Molinaro, calling for the resignation of a former advisor to incumbent Andrew Cuomo, while the sitting governor rallied against President Trump.

Molinaro is making  a statewide string of appearances to focus on what he says is rampant corruption in the Cuomo Administration.

“This governor is allowing almost a corrupted criminal enterprise to function within state government,” Molinaro said. “And it needs to come to an end.”

The state Comptroller, Tom DiNapoli, is out with his annual report on Wall Street profits, and he finds, not surprisingly, they are up.

Lt. Governor's Office/Jumaane Williams

The Democratic primary for lieutenant governor is turning out to be closer than the governor’s race — according to the polls, anyway.

New York City Councilmember Jumaane Williams is challenging incumbent Kathy Hochul for the post.

Williams said he brings a different vision to the office. He said he wants to be independent and sees the lieutenant governor’s role as similar to the post of New York City public advocate, an elected position that is meant to represent the needs of the public.

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