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Cuomo Ahead, As Governor's Race Narrows

Bebeto Matthews / Julio Cortez
New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro, left, speaks at a news conference in New York in Sept., and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, right, speaks in Tarrytown in May.

Polls show the governor’s race in New York narrowing a bit as the 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.

Cuomo delivered a speech at a get-out-the-vote rally on Long Island Sunday where he kept the focus on his opposition to President Donald Trump, a campaign theme that the governor has highlighted for months. Cuomo says the Republican Party is “antithetical” to what New Yorkers believe.  

“Literally everything they want to do is the opposite of what we believe, here, in the State of New York. Their election of President Trump was a fraud,” Cuomo said. “He said he was going to help the middle class, the major piece of legislation they passed they can’t even talk about because it was a tax cut, 80 percent went to the richest one percent of Americans.”

Cuomo, speaking to media after a rally in Westchester, also on Sunday, predicts the animosity towards the president will help Democrats gain seats and take back the House in Congress, and get more Democrats elected to the State Senate.

The governor also touted what he says is his progressive record of marriage equality, paid family leave, and phasing in an increase in the minimum wage that will lead to a $15 an hour wage in some parts of the state in a couple of years. And he promises more of the same if re-elected.  

Cuomo did not mention the poll numbers, but the news buoyed Republican Molinaro, who spoke at a rally in Albany Sunday morning. He laid out what he sees as the problems that the state faces after two terms of Cuomo.

“(We have the) highest taxed state in America,” said Molinaro who said the state is also “overregulated.”

“And because of it all, the most broken and corrupted state government in the country,” he said.

The Republican candidate says he would lower property taxes by one-third, in part by having the state take over county Medicaid costs.  

And he’s been critical of corruption scandals in Cuomo’s Administration that has led to several former Cuomo aides and associates facing prison time on bribery and bid rigging convictions.

Molinaro leads Cuomo by 10 points upstate, and is in a statistical dead heat in the New York City suburbs. The GOP candidate, speaking to reporters afterward, says he knows in order to win, he’ll need to overcome Cuomo’s more than 60-point lead in New York City. But he says he thinks he has more support there than the poll indicates.

Molinaro did not once mention the head of his party, President Trump, in his final remarks to voters. Cuomo has tried to portray Molinaro as a “Trump Mini Me,” but the GOP candidate says he did not vote for Trump, and is his own person.

“I know exactly who I am,” said Molinaro, who said he’s been in public office before Trump, or Cuomo. The 43-year-old Molinaro became mayor of his hometown of Tivoli when he was 18.

“Which includes saying to the President and the federal government, ‘We need smart investment in New York,’” said Molinaro.

In addition to being behind in the polls, Molinaro also has a funding disadvantage compared to Cuomo. The incumbent governor spent and raised nearly $30 million in this election cycle, and had over $9 million available to spend in the closing weeks of the campaign. Molinaro had just $200,000 left in his campaign account, for the final month.

Three other candidates for governor are also on the ballot – Independent and former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, Libertarian Party candidate Larry Sharpe and the Green Party’s Howie Hawkins.

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, 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.
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