Paladino takes shots at GOP from sideline
08.06.12 | Times Union
Aug. 06–ALBANY — He’s not on the ballot, but Carl Paladino isn’t sitting this election out.
The Buffalo developer, whose 2010 gubernatorial bid against Gov. Andrew Cuomo fell short, has endorsed a smattering of his fellow Republicans, including U.S. Senate hopeful Wendy Long.
But Paladino is also arguing against some of his fellow party-mates, backing a half-dozen challengers to incumbent senators because, he says, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has “sold out” his principles. The GOP holds a 33-29 majority in the chamber, which they regained in 2010 and which gives the party a critical seat at the lawmaking table alongside Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, both Democrats.
“I’m looking for people who are willing to actually go there and do our job,” Paladino told the Times Union in a brief telephone interview.
His targets include Sen. George Maziarz, R-Niagara Falls, and Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous, R-Binghamton — two of Skelos’ senior lieutenants. Paladino attempted to recruit candidates against some Capital Region candidates, but was unsuccessful.
Paladino was himself a political insurgent: his last run was initially derided as a fringe candidacy, but he whipped the choice of party favorites, Rick Lazio, by channeling tea party populism and fomenting an upstate base.
But it’s unclear just how much influence the former standard bearer retains. He is known in and around Buffalo for buying radio advertisements railing about local problems (the school system is favorite fodder), but in other corners of the state he has faded from memory.
Paladino’s criticism of the current crop of Senate Republicans started bubbling up earlier this year at the February conference of the state’s Conservative Party in Colonie: what he joked was the party’s “A-Team” has betrayed its roots when it backed a tax restructuring authored by Cuomo that renewed most of a surcharge on millionaires that was due to expire. Since the restructuring was passed before the expiration date and also reduced rates on middle-income earners, it was spun as a tax cut. Paladino also criticized the Senate GOP’s decision to hold a vote on same-sex marriage in 2011, which passed with four Republican backers.
He still commands media attention, and was interviewed by major outlets earlier this year when he promoted Newt Gingrich’s campaign in the Empire State, but he now communicates principally by invective e-mails. They are sent, en masse, to political activists and tea party supporters who digitally connected to him during the 2010 campaign. Paladino says his lists contain 40,000 names.
Last week he sent a missive condemning Libous as the “poster child for term limits” and claiming he and Skelos are RINOs (Republican in name only) who have grown too close to Cuomo in a bid to protect their majority. Senate Republicans aren’t shy in emphasizing how they’ve worked with Cuomo, who polls show is incredibly popular and who has conspicuously refused to commit to aiding Senate Democrats.
“We’ve delivered the bipartisan results that New Yorkers want and deserve, all while sticking to core Republican principles like reducing spending, cutting taxes and empowering the private sector to create new jobs,” said Scott Reif, a spokesman for Skelos. “Under Senator Skelos’ leadership, New York is turning the corner and most reasonable people understand that.”
Albany County Republican Chairman Don Clarey responded to Paladino’s attack on Libous by accusing him of being a “double-agent” for Democrats whose “rantings and ravings over the past several months … show how ill-informed you are about civic affairs and politics.”
“The Senate is a paper-thin majority for Republicans. For someone to be divisive by running candidates and running down incumbents — a person who purports to be a Republican — is being counterproductive and dangerous,” Clarey said by phone.
In his letter, he said he was “embarrassed” to vote for Paladino.
Paladino retorted: “Running for office was only the beginning statement for me…You see, Don, the days of you and the good old boys are coming to an end very quickly.”
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