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Crazy Carl (Paladino) and His Radical Plan for New York

The Republican in New York’s gubernatorial race speaks out.

12:36 PM, Oct 18, 2010 • By DANIEL HALPER
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New York, New York

Crazy Carl (Paladino) and His Radical Plan for New York

Carl Paladino should be kicking himself—or firing whoever’s been giving him political advice. The Buffalo businessman vying for New York’s governorship this election, now better known in the New York Post as “crazy Carl,” is running a confused, undisciplined campaign. Paladino has drawn national attention for all the wrong reasons: comments he’s made about homosexuals that many found offensive, physically threatening a reporter who he thought was getting too close to a child he had with a woman out of wedlock, and insinuating that his opponent, Democrat Andrew Cuomo, is having an affair without providing any actual evidence.

“I’m not politically correct, and I like being not politically correct,” Paladino told me. “I think political correctness is a way of denying truth to the people.”

“I could care less what those who don’t like me have to say about me,” he said about the overwhelmingly negative press coverage and his outspoken critics. “I don’t care what they think. It doesn’t matter. I could sleep through a train-wreck--I  sleep very well at night.”

“I’m not an intimidatable person. Okay? I’m not politically correct. I’m not intimidatable. I’m very determined. When I want to do something, I will do it.”

On Monday night, the gubernatorial candidates will meet for a debate on Long Island, a constituency that Paladino calls “important” for him to win. The Republican insists that the mere fact Cuomo agreed to a debate is because Cuomo “knows he’s going to lose this election right now. He has to debate. He has to take that risk. He knows what’s going on behind the scenes. He can smell that the people--he doesn’t have an agenda.”

Most political pundits would scoff at Paladino’s arrogance. He’s down 19 points in the polls. And the debate, the only one on schedule, will include all seven candidates for governor--meaning the leader Cuomo will essentially be relegating Paladino to the status of the other five no-name candidates. But Paladino can’t help himself: “Absolutely brilliant that he agreed to a debate. He has nowhere to go but down.”

The thing is, when you actually get Paladino talking about the issues facing New York voters, something I found that he’s really trying to do these days, he’s surprisingly wonky, well-spoken, and even convincing.

So what’s the Paladino plan?

“We have two things we want to get across to voters: Our message, which is pretty basic, and our delivery--our ability to deliver,” Paladino told me in a private conference room in a swanky New York hotel. “Our substantive message is that we’re going to cut spending and we’re going to cut taxes.”

The Paladino plan is to cut 20 percent of spending in the New York State budget and to cut state income taxes by 10 percent. “That’s it. It’s that simple,” as he told me numerous times throughout our 45-minute conversation.

The cuts themselves--never mind Paladino’s other, more hair-raising rhetoric--would most certainly come with controversy. “In some cases we’re going to get rid of entire agencies; in other cases we’re going to get rid of just some departments and divisions; in some cases we’re going to combine things, we’re going to streamline,” Paladino explained. “There’s a bunch of different efforts that are included in cutting spending.”

Laying off state workers is never something that goes over too well. But that doesn’t deter Paladino.

What exactly would you cut, I asked the candidate, knowing that practically everyone, Democratic and Republican, talks very generally about cut backs when campaigning, and knowing that very few actually provide any sort of tangible way to cut back government spending and growth. “A couple small [government agencies]: The Adirondack Park Agency, [saving] $35 million a year, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. Those are small. Large: Division of Housing and Community Renewal.” Sure, these agencies provide some services, Paladino said, but not much would be lost if they were reconstituted and combined with other government bureaucracies that are doing the same, or similar, things.

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