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Andrew Giuliani on the Campbell Conversations

On this week's episode of the Campbell Conversations, Grant Reeher speaks with Andrew Giuliani, one of the republican candidates for Governor of New York State. Prior to his candidacy, he served as an Associate Director in former president Donald Trump's Office of Public Liaison, and as a special assistant to the president.

Program Transcript:

Grant Reeher: Welcome to the Campbell Conversations. I'm Grant Reeher. My guest today is one of the Republican candidates for governor of New York State, Andrew Giuliani. Prior to his candidacy, he served as associate director in former president Donald Trump's Office of Public Liaison and as a special assistant to the president. Mr. Giuliani, welcome to the program.

Andrew Giuliani: Grant, thank you so much for having me on.

GR: We really appreciate you making the time. So let me just start with a very basic question, and if you could be brief, I'd appreciate it. I know you have a lot to say on this topic, but briefly, what's the case against electing Kathy Hochul?

AG: I think, unfortunately, the data has led the way on this, and we have seen crime that has continued to spiral out of control. Obviously, the national media focuses specifically on New York City. But I would look at the fact that Rochester, for example, had the most murders ever in recorded history last year. Now, you could say, well, she was only governor for five months out of last year. You're right. But guess what? We're on pace to surpass that this year in Rochester. Same thing with violent crime really all around the state. I know in Syracuse, the violent crime average is twice the national average. Buffalo is in the top 15% of all mid-level cities. In Albany, we saw a violent crime spike of 35% over the last year. And unfortunately, Kathy Hochul is not presented solutions that will actually stop that. I know that people will say, well, there were a couple of tiny little tweaks with bail reform that she brought through and all that. And I would say honestly, those are tweaks that really are just going to get a little attention from the press, but it does not actually have the substance to actually stop the crime spree that we have seen all across the state. Grant, we lead the country in outmigration here in New York, and it's for a bunch of reasons. But I can point immediately to our crime issue, to our surging crime as probably being the top issue.

GR: I want to come back to crime in a little bit, but let me stick with these general questions first. So again, briefly if you could, what makes you think you can do better as governor than she can?

AG: Well, first and foremost, I can tell you I have an action plan starting on day one that I would implement. I started going around the state this last week and unveiling it, and right on the first top priority is a $5 billion pot, basically a $5 billion refunding pot that the state will actually create. So that way, local municipalities, sheriff's office that have been defunded has had some resources taken away, they will be able to tap into those state resources. You know, when I look at our $220 billion budget Grant in the state of New York, there are a whole lot of places that need to be cut. I can tell you the one place that I'm not going to compromise on is making sure that our law enforcement has the full funding they need to keep New Yorkers safe. I would also look at bail reform on day one. I will sit down with Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Carl Heastie and tell them very simply, I need a repeal of bail reform on my desk. And until that happens, I will not be funding your top priorities in the budget. And I also look at district attorneys is obviously it's very hot in the news this week nationally with the recall in San Francisco. But I would look at district attorneys like Alvin Bragg and any district attorney that has failed to execute their oath of office per the New York State Constitution, article 8, Section 13b, I would invoke it and fire them on day one. Obviously, that would create a trial period. So it's not technically a firing, but it would put them on notice immediately as we don't have recall in New York, Grant, I really think that is what, as governor, what I can do for New Yorkers to tell them very clearly, I'm here to make sure that you're safe.

GR: So the other candidates in this race and on both sides of the aisle do have more formal office holding experience than you do, which might be a concern for some voters.

AG: Yes, sure. Well, you know, look, I've spent the last four years, as you detailed out in the White House, working under President Trump at the pinnacle of government, first as an associate director of his Office of Public Liaison where we handled really all the Fortune 500 companies, all the business leaders and really the small business associations where President Trump made very clear to me directly that he wanted to make sure that it was our businesses, our Fortune 500 company CEOs that were dictating the economic policy of the Trump White House, not bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. who had been there 25 years. So to be really in that office at that time, working through that and then getting promoted to special assistant to the president, where I worked on issues like the Paycheck Protection Program, like the Cares Act, where I was specifically focused on the two tranches that went to the MTA, nearly $8 billion while the world was shutting down, which was so necessary. And the 9/11 Health Fund in making sure at $3.9 million that actually was held from those heroes which had gone over three presidential administrations actually were refunded. So you're right. I have not been elected to office but I would say some of our greatest leaders in the history of this country maybe had no elected office experience before getting in there. What I would also say is even though I am 36 years old, I have spent my entire life around politics and learning from Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump. You know, I think I've learned from two guys who whatever side of the aisle you're on, you could say that they stand by their convictions.

GR: You're listening to the campaign conversations on WRVO Public Media. I'm Grant Reeher, and I'm speaking with Andrew Giuliani, a Republican who's running for governor in this year's election. Well, you mentioned outmigration briefly, and it is a fact that New York State perennially ranks at or near the top for tax burden relative to other states. And I was wondering if you had an opinion about whether there are certain high taxes here that are more damaging to the state's overall well-being than other taxes?

AG: Well, we can look at income tax, but we could also look at property tax. Now, this kind of gets you in a little bit into my education philosophy as well. So let me kind of break this down in terms of how I would approach this. First and foremost, from an economic standpoint, as we know, that will be something that I will deal with the legislature in my first budget negotiations. So that's not something that on day one, you can say I will get the tax cut done on day one delivered. I can promise New Yorkers that I will start working on that on day one. But what I can do from an action standpoint, because I love laying out action plans, Grant. To me, all politicians have narratives. What can you show with the data? What are you actually going to do? What I'll do on day one from a business standpoint is look at our regulations in the state of New York and along with California, we are one of the most overregulated states in the country. When we look at where that outmigration flow from New York is going. It's going to states like Florida, like Texas, like Tennessee. To your point, these are zero tax states from a state income tax, but also these are some of the least regulated states from business standpoint that allows business owners and job creators to thrive. To me, I would look at a overregulation, I would look at a regulatory cut, the same way that President Trump looked at a regulatory cut in the White House. It was one of the issues that I had the opportunity to work on, where he made the campaign promise for every regulation he'd sign into law, he would cut two. That number was over eight to one by the time he walked out of the White House. And that's why we saw such record low, low unemployment in the beginning of 2020. So for me, that's the type of economic ideas that I would take into office from an action plan on day one. And then deeper as we go into the first year and the first few years of my administration But I'm happy to get a little more - I know I'm being long winded here, happy to get a little bit more into property taxes and how we can ease the burden on property taxes if you want me to continue or if you want to come in and ask another question.

GR: Well, let me let me ask this question that's related to it. You know, one of the problems, I think, for New York state government now is we know the taxes are really high. I think there's general agreement that that creates some problems for the state. But the question then is we have all these programs in place. What's the best way to approach lowering taxes without really cutting into the meat of the services that the state offers to its citizens? That's the real conundrum. And so how would you think about that?

AG: Well, I would look and say, first and foremost, are the services provided or are they actually performing to the standard that they need? Look, per capita in the state of New York, we pay more for a child to get educated than any other state in the country. But from a performance standpoint, we are mattering which statistic you look at. We are somewhere between 23rd and 29th in terms of performance of said student. So, you know, the fact that we're paying the most and really getting average in terms of the results means something is missing right there. When you also look at the budget and you look at the top things that we spend upon, obviously one is health care in New York, but then two and three. Two is K-through-12 education, three is higher education. And then in five, you have something called general expenditures. Now, look, there should be a pot for general expenditures, but when any is one of the top five most important budget items from a funding standpoint, you're talking frankly about slush funds for politicians. There is so much waste in this budget. I honestly can tell you from a productive standpoint, I think you can look at each of these areas of the budget and really demand a tent o twenty percent cut on day one. And actually, you probably not only will cut your services you'll probably get better performance by basically saying, hey, look, I want to set performance standards here, otherwise, we're coming after the program. There's no need to throw money at a problem if you don't have the actual solution and the path to actually fix it. But I'll take the property taxes as another example over here and how that relates to schools. One of the things that I've proposed is people over 65 in the state of New York that are making less than $100,000 is a property tax refund. As we know, so much of our property taxes around the state actually go to education. And that education pot that is honestly takes a rocket scientist to figure out in terms of what comes from the federal government, what comes from state government income taxes, what comes from property taxes. But I think what we can all agree upon, or most of us can agree upon, is the fact that parents should be the primary stakeholders in our kids’ education. Well, by giving a property tax credit to parents that are under 65 years old and refunding those New Yorkers that are over 65 years old, they're making less than $100,000. What you're doing is you're creating basically the free market in education, what that property tax credit will actually do for education. If you give that to the parent, you can say very simply, if your public school is not performing up to standard, you can take that property tax credit and bring it to a parochial school, to a yeshiva school, to a private school, or to home schooling right there. That will ultimately, in doing that, make those public schools have to perform better because the parents then they become the consumer at that point and saying, hey, are they performing up to standard for my child? And as a parent, as a new parent, as somebody who's thinking about my daughter's education in the future, I want to make sure that she's getting the best opportunity possible. But it shouldn't just be New Yorkers that have basically the money to do this. It should be all New Yorkers that have options, Grant.

GR: When you're listening to the Campbell Conversations on WRVO Public Media, I'm Grant Reeher, and I'm talking with Andrew Giuliani. The Republican is running for New York state governor in this year's election. You talked extensively about crime, obviously, and I think you're right, it has emerged as an issue at front of mind for most voters in New York State. So, you talked about bail reform, you talked about the funding levels for law enforcement. What are some of the other reasons why you think crime and particularly violent crime have increased in the state recently?

AG: Well, I know I mentioned bail reform you know, and I'm a big believer in letting the data lead the way on this. But I think you can look, when that law was signed by Andrew Cuomo in April of 2019, and you could overlay it with the violent crime statistics in the murder statistics really around the state, we've seen significant increases all around the state. You know we focus on New York City but it really is true. I would point to that as being one of the main things. I would also say kind of the overarching ideas of defunding the police, of maybe looking at some of our productive proactive policing measures that we've seen rolled back the reimagining of it. Look, I'm a really big believer that we've been told some fantastic lies over the last couple of years, that our police are part of the problem. I'm not saying that everybody is perfect. We know that there are individual examples. And guess what? If somebody willfully breaks the law, whether or not they don the blue or not, but if they willfully break the law, I'll be the first one to say that they should be held to account. But we need to make sure that as a state that we're allowing police to be proactive, to go into neighborhoods that are struggling with drug crime, that are struggling with the high homicide rates or larceny to allow them to actually get the job done. Right now, we've been taking really in some ways the opposite approach of broken windows. You don't have to go any further than Alvin Bragg's memo to his assistant district attorneys when he said he's not going to prosecute many misdemeanors. And he certainly highlighted, specifically, armed robbery and resisting arrest. That's the exact opposite of broken windows, which worked so effectively in the nineties in New York and other cities that used it around the country. They had a strong effect as well. So I would bring the same type of mindset and the same type of policies that were so effective in New York City in the late nineties and 2000’s to Albany.

GR: I imagine you've got someone in particular in mind when you're thinking about the broken windows theory.

AG: (laughter) I got a guy, I guess you could say.

GR: Yeah, yeah, you got a guy.(laughter) Let me ask this question. The governor and the Democrats in the legislature seem to think that more gun control is the key to policy change, to addressing crime. I was wondering if you could assess the package of gun control laws that were just passed several days ago.

AG: Yeah, I saw the package. And obviously I know the governor has signed a few into law already as we speak right now. I don't think they've addressed the root cause of this, to be perfectly honest, Grant, I think we can look at the shooter from Broome County who went up obviously to the Tops at Buffalo with that terrible racist massacre. And the state police a year ago had this guy in custody because he was threatening to shoot up his school. What I have to ask is from a party that has been championing a movement that has been defunding the police, did the state police have the resources that they needed to hold this guy? Are we actually putting in enough resources to our local, to our state police to actually address those that have mental health issues? You don't have to go any further than walking the streets in New York City or in Buffalo or in other areas of the state to go and look and see people that are shooting up and that are homeless right in front of you right there that have obvious mental health issues. Instead, we've completely ignored these issues. Rather than saying, you know what, we have compassion, I don't want to see them rot away on the streets like this. One, because we're compassionate people. But two, because guess what? I want to make sure again, as a father that my daughter and my wife can safely walk down the street without have to worry whether somebody has mental health issues might come and attack them with a needle. And I wish I could say that this is just something that we're making up here, but you could see time and time and time again. Look at the New York City subway shooter from about a month ago or so. This guy had 19 prior arrests, 19 priors, and he was still let out in order to commit this heinous crime on the New York City subway. So to me, we're not addressing the root cause, which is making sure that career criminals do not have the opportunity to continue to commit crime. I'm a big believer in correcting their behavior. I love pointing out that it should be the corrections system less than the penitentiary. I love that idea of a corrections system. And somebody who commits a misdemeanor, I believe that they should have other opportunities in life. But I also understand that if you let somebody who has committed a misdemeanor, let them immediately out, then you have not actually told them in so many ways that, hey, this is behavior that will be punished and it needs to be corrected. And what you'll see is, in many cases, a graduation from petite larceny to grand larceny, sometimes even more violent felonies than that. That behavior needs to be corrected very early on in the process.

GR: Now, I'm going to switch topics here and ask you something about the political process itself. The redistricting process has been something of great attention in the last couple of years. And I think this year's redistricting process is, to put it kindly, a mess. As governor, would you be willing to wade back into that issue or is the most recent amendment to the state's constitution that created this commission that didn't really come up with maps that they could agree on? I mean, is that process the best we can do for a while, or would you be willing to go back into that and try to change that?

AG: Well, the process obviously did not work. And looking at this, you know, wherever you stood on this I obviously thought that the lines that were drawn in January were very political when you look at it. I think these lines are certainly fairer. I think just in the breakdown of counties and how you have I think it was something like only 16 counties are actually divided in these lines where over 30 and the other lines you can see that we have not divided actually communities the way that the other ones have. But obviously this commission did not work. I would look at a way to actually figure out how we can depoliticize this. I know this is so tough when gerrymandering has been a call on both sides of the aisle. I mean, we've seen it with Eric Holder, Obama's former attorney general, and we've certainly seen it in conservative states where they've looked at gerrymandering as being a way to gain more power. What I would love to see in New York, and this is why I was satisfied with the current lines that are out there, even though I think they came out too late, is more competitive districts. I'd love to see more districts within ten points of each other, because then I think that really allows for great competition. It allows not only for the great competition, but allows for more New Yorkers to really participate in their process both on a state assembly level, on a state senate level, and certainly on a congressional level in a way that an R plus 30 or D plus 30 just doesn't allow people feel hopeless and understandably so. But I think whatever side of the aisle we're on, we can agree that the fact that we're having our primary on June 28th and that there's a primary at the end of August for the state Senate and for Congress is a complete mess and a disaster and it needs to be addressed so this doesn't happen again in 2030.

GR: If you're just joining us you're listening to The Campbell Conversations on WRVO Public Media and my guest is New York gubernatorial candidate Andrew Giuliani. This question follows immediately from your answer there. You mentioned D plus 30. I got to ask you a question about New York State and your prospects in a general election. You know that primary elections are different from general elections and the state is very blue. I think it's fair to say it's pretty anti-Trump overall. And you've clearly associated yourself with the former president in what you've said here today to me. So it could be argued that you know, anybody who's got a strong association with the former president, as you have, would be very hard to elect in a general election in New York State. So can you address that, particularly for the primary voters in a Republican primary trying to figure out, all right, you know, who's the best shot to win in a general election?

AG: Well, I think first and foremost, in terms of the political strategy, if you will, you know, when I was very young and observing, you know, in some ways from the back of the room or in the car with my father, I made kind of a I don't know, just a commitment to myself. But I always told myself that, you know, if I ran for political office, first and foremost, I’d be honest, I'd be genuine with voters. Look, I've worked four years for President Trump, I've known the guy for over 20 years. And I've considered him a good friend and somebody who I continue to bounce ideas off of. My name is Giuliani. I know there are some New Yorkers that love that, and there are some New Yorkers that certainly don't love that. But I'm not going to run away from who I am, I think, first and foremost as a person. But secondly, what I would say and I would point to New Jersey and Virginia and say, look, these are two deep blue states. One in Virginia's case, went red last year and one in New Jersey's case that almost went red last year. That a very, very close election. So for me, I think the New York race is going to turn out to be very similar to those two races. And I would also look at the fact that as we're analyzing this and as we're assessing the upcoming races, if Democrats’ idea of painting me specifically as the I don't know, the demon lovechild of Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump, whatever they want to call it, I think they're missing the main fact here, which is right now crime is surging across New York. We're paying $5 a gallon in many parts of the state over here. And we're having an affordability crisis all around the state of New York, where the highest taxed state in the country, considering that Donald Trump will, by the time we get to Election Day, will not have been in office for nearly 22 months, I think they're missing an opportunity to address an action plan that they would have for New Yorkers. And to frankly defend the current president who is in the White House in saying, hey, you know, has his record been actually something that we want to run on? So I think it's a distraction and honestly, I think there are a lot of New Yorkers that two years after President Trump has left office are going to say, well, you know what? He actually has a better action plan than our current governor. I'm interested in listening to his message.

GR: We've got about 3 minutes left. I want to squeeze probably three more questions in mind, if I can. And this first one has to do with upstate voters, and that is that, you know, Kathy Hochul is the first female governor in the state, but she's also the first upstate governor and I think almost a century. So if you were to win, you would obviously be another downstater. Thinking about voters here in upstate, why would they want to change having an upstater in office who understands them?

AG: Yeah, I think and I'll try to be short here. I think from an economic standpoint, we can look at what Kathy Hochul has put on the board. Unfortunately, she's not created, she's not shown really a path to revitalizing western New York and central New York and the North country and the southern tier. For me, I've looked right at the Marcellus Shale and said, I really think this is something that as a state we need to tap into. And I think there are fewer places that would benefit more than the southern tier and the North Country in western and Central New York from that. I'm also very interested to see what she does on this crypto bill that was sent to her desk. I know she's getting some competing ideas, but I believe it's imperative that we're figuring out ways to create jobs in this state rather than chase them to other states.

GR: Okay. And this goes to the culture in Albany. You've talked about it kind of around the edges so far. But, you know, every candidate for governor says, “I'm going to change the political culture in Albany. It's corrupt, it doesn't work. It's inefficient.” Andrew Cuomo said that, he arguably he arguably made it worse. How are you going to change it? What's going to be your special trick?

AG: Well, certainly, I mean, you can look back at the last four Democratic governors, lieutenant governors, as we go through this and we could see Spitzer, to Cuomo, we certainly don't have enough time to go into all of everything he's done. But I could just point to Kathy Hochul and I point to the Bills stadium deal and her husband profiting off of the concessions there. And I can point to her major first appointment in Brian Benjamin to say this is more of the same that we've seen right here. Look, the two people that I've learned the most from are Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump. I think you could say that there are few people that have changed the culture of politics, like those two men. Some people might not like it. But the truth is, that's exactly what I learned from that's what I would do in Albany.

GR: So here's my last question. You're a graduate of Duke. If you're elected who are you going to root for when Duke plays Syracuse in basketball?

AG: I'm going with Syracuse. I got to tell you, here's the thing. I actually am a big Manhattan College Jaspers fan. My father was Manhattan College, any time that Manhattan would come down, you know, I would be pulling for the Jaspers. But I'm a big fan of Jim Boeheim. I love the fact that Carmelo Anthony played on the Knicks and won a national championship. But that's probably the toughest question that you gave me right there. So, you know, I'm going to the Carrier Dome, but we're going to see Syracuse hopefully winning a national championship.

GR: JMA Dome now, different name. (laughter) But that was that was Andrew Giuliani, and the primary for governor is June 28. Early voting begins June 18th, and absentee ballots must be requested by June 13th. You can also find my earlier interviews with other candidates on the Campbell Conversations web page under the local programing tab at WRVO dot org. And there is a candidates debate on Monday evening, immediately following the weekend when you're listening to this broadcast when it is aired live. Mr. Giuliani, thanks again for taking the time to talk with me, and I want to wish you well on the campaign trail.

AG: Grant thanks for having me, and anybody else who liked our message, go to save NY dot org to learn more.

GR: You've been listening to the Campbell conversations on WRVO, Public Media Conversations in the Public Interest.

Grant Reeher is Director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute and a professor of political science at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. He is also creator, host and program director of “The Campbell Conversations” on WRVO, a weekly regional public affairs program featuring extended in-depth interviews with regional and national writers, politicians, activists, public officials, and business professionals.