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Cuomo's political opponents say they’re nicer than he is


Gov. Andrew Cuomo, seeking a third term in office, is facing challenges both from the left of his party and from a new Republican candidate. But the two candidates, Cynthia Nixon and Marc Molinaro, share a common theme — they say they are nicer than Cuomo.

Actor and progressive Democratic candidate Cynthia Nixon said Cuomo is more than simply a hard-charging type of politician.

“We’ve all seen it,” Nixon said in an appearance in Albany on March 26. “Andrew the bully. He bullies other elected officials. He bullies anyone who criticizes him.”

Nixon hopes to challenge Cuomo in the Democratic primary in September. She’s also brought up the recent bribery conviction of the governor’s former closest aide, Joe Percoco, who Cuomo regarded as a brother.

“We have a governor whose chief aide was not accused of corruption, was actually convicted of it,” Nixon said.

Nixon believes that more money needs to be spent on the state’s poorest schools and that the wealthy should pay more taxes. 

Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who announced his candidacy Monday, has a different philosophy on many policies. He thinks taxes need to be cut and that businesses need more freedom from regulations to create more jobs.

But he agrees with Nixon’s assessment of Cuomo’s temperament. And he, too, highlights the string of corruption trials involving former Cuomo associates, saying the Capitol has a “culture of corruption.”

“Too often, the tone coming from the governor’s is angry and divisive,” Molinaro said at a campaign appearance in Albany on Monday. “The language is crude and offensive.”

Both Nixon and Molinaro are highlighting women’s rights as an issue, and they criticize the governor’s private budget meetings with three male legislative leaders, where the state’s new sexual harassment policies also were decided.

Molinaro called for a more open government.

“We will change the way we do business,” he promised supporters. “And finally end four men in a room.”

Nixon said it’s astonishing to most people that only men were in the meetings to devise the sexual harassment policies — including a legislative leader who is accused of sexual harassment, Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein. Klein denies the charges.

“Why should we settle for sexual harassment policies that are being discussed behind closed doors without a single woman present?” Nixon asked.

Cuomo has not directly addressed Nixon’s campaign, preferring instead to have surrogates, including some union leaders, stick up for the governor. Transport Workers Union International President John Samuelsen, in a press release, called Nixon a “phony progressive” with “zero government experience.” 

The governor did have a response for Molinaro when reporters asked him about the Republican’s entry into the race.

“They want to run a Trump mini-me in New York, good luck,” Cuomo said. “This state rejects Trump’s philosophies, his values.”

Molinaro is actually not an enthusiastic Trump supporter. He did not vote for Trump for president, but said he understands why some New Yorkers admire him.

Molinaro did not answer Cuomo’s attack with a counterpunch. He instead borrowed a line from former Democratic first lady Michelle Obama.

“When he goes low, I’ll go high,” Molinaro said. “I think people deserve an elevated dialogue.”

Cuomo’s supporters say the governor will be judged on his record, not his temperament. It includes approving same-sex marriage seven years ago, and more recently raising the minimum wage and enacting paid family leave, as well as pushing through gun control measures that are some of the strictest in the nation.

Polls so far show Cuomo well ahead of his challengers. He also has $30 million in his campaign fund, plenty of money to run television ads and negatively define his opponents when the time comes.

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.