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Support for Paladino Collapses After Thuggish Clash With Reporter, Anti-Gay Diatribes

(Posted 5:00 a.m. EDT Tuesday, October 19, 2010)

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CUOMO, PALADINO KEEP THEIR COOL IN DEBATE — But Minor-Party Hopefuls Steal the Show With Zany One-Liners — CLICK HERE
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By SKEETER SANDERS

PLATTSBURGH, New York — With just two weeks to go before the Empire State’s voters cast their ballots, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Cuomo has rocketed to a commanding 35-point lead over his Tea Party-backed Republican rival, Carl Paladino, according to a new poll released Monday — with an astonishingly large majority of respondents saying that Paladino’s "angry," "bigoted" and "obnoxious" personality makes him unfit to be governor.

The poll by The New York Times showed the state attorney general holding a better than two-to-one lead over Paladino, 59 percent to 24 percent, a gain of four points since a Quinnipiac College poll released on October 8. Meanwhile, support for the multimillionaire Buffalo businessman plunged 10 points from the 34 percent Paladino garnered in the Quinnipiac survey.

If Cuomo’s huge lead remains intact by election day, he would be on track to score the greatest landslide victory in a New York gubernatorial election in the state’s history — topping the 33-point landslide of his father, Mario Cuomo, who buried his GOP opponent, Andrew O’Rourke, 64 percent to 32 percent, to win a second term in 1986.

Paladino’s standing with voters — already damaged by his highly-publicized confrontation on September 30 with a reporter in which Paladino, acting like a Mafia boss, threatened, "I’ll take you out, buddy!" — plunged into a free fall after he made a series a highly inflammatory anti-gay remarks, including a speech on October 9 at a conservative Jewish synagogue in Brooklyn in which the candidate said that children should not be "brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option."

SURVEY FINDS A SOLID MAJORITY JUDGING PALADINO UNFIT TO BE GOVERNOR

The Times poll, conducted Sunday through Friday of last week, found an astonishing 59 percent of respondents saying that Paladino does not have the temperament that makes him fit to serve as the state’s chief executive, and that 55 percent said the millionaire Buffalo real estate developer has neither the political nor governmental experience required for the office. More tellingly, 43 percent of respondents had an unfavorable opinion of Paladino, while only 11 percent viewed him favorably.

Poll respondents, when asked what came to mind the most about Paladino when his name was mentioned, answered with a variety of highly negative descriptions of him, including "angry" — by his own admission, Paladino said he was "mad as hell" — "bigoted" for his anti-gay diatribes and "obnoxious" for his confrontation with New York Post reporter Fred Dicker.

TEA PARTY-BACKED REPUBLICAN RAN NEARLY EVEN WITH CUOMO IN SEPTEMBER

In a September 22 Quinnipiac College poll, Cuomo led Paladino by only six points, 49 percent to 43 percent, powered at the time by solid support among Republicans (83 percent) and independents (49 percent). A separate poll by Survey USA released the same day showed Cuomo leading 49 percent to 40 percent.

But on September 30, Paladino sank the already-heated campaign to succeed outgoing Governor David Paterson into the gutter when he accused Cuomo, a divorced father of three, of cheating on his former wife, Kerry Kennedy, a daughter of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, without furnishing a shred of proof to back him up.

Later that same day, Paladino came unglued — in full view of TV news cameras.

When challenged by Dicker, the Post’s state news editor and Albany bureau chief, to provide evidence to back up his accusations against Cuomo, Paladino accused the reporter of working for the Cuomo campaign and, acting as though he were Tony Soprano, the fictional New Jersey organized-crime boss in the acclaimed television series, "The Sopranos," warned Dicker, "I’ll take you out, buddy!"

The equally tough-talking Dicker, the dean of the Albany press corps, demanded to know how Paladino would "take him out" — widely interpreted as a threat of bodily harm. Paladino then replied, "Watch!" before he was hustled away by his aides while an indignant Dicker shot back, "Are you threatening me?".

In fact, it was Kennedy who was cheating on Cuomo, not the other way around. Kennedy was having an affair with Bruce Colley, a New York restaurateur and socialite. Colley confirmed the affair in 2003 just days after Cuomo and Kennedy announced they were ending their marriage. Paladino ultimately retracted his claim against Cuomo, admitting that he had no proof.

(Paladino’s clash with Dicker ultimately cost him the editorial support of the arch-conservative Post, owned by media baron Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. The tabloid on Monday endorsed Cuomo, branding Paladino "undisciplined, unfocused and untrustworthy — that is, fundamentally unqualified for the office he seeks.")

PALADINO IGNITES FIRESTORM WITH ANTI-GAY TIRADES

Support for Paladino already was declining when, on October 8, the Republican went on the attack against gays, telling an ultraconservative Hasidic Jewish congregation in Brooklyn that children should not be "brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option. It isn’t."

Paladino made clear his opposition to same-gender marriage, telling congregants at another Brooklyn synagogue, "I oppose the homosexual agenda, whether they call it marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships. Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

The timing of Paladino’s anti-gay remarks, amidst a rash of suicides of young people — including a New Jersey college student who jumped off the George Washington Bridge — who were bullied for being gay or perceived as gay and just two days after the vicious beating and sodomizing of two teen-agers by a Bronx street gang in a rampage of anti-gay violence, ignited a firestorm of outrage from across the political spectrum.

Undaunted, Paladino took aim at New York’s annual Gay Pride Parade two days later, when, appearing on the "Imus in the Morning" radio show, said, "I don’t think I’d be proud to take my child to a gay pride parade where you have these men in Speedos and otherwise naked grinding against each other up in the back of a truck. I think it’s disgusting."

Less than an hour later, on NBC’s "Today" show, Paladino repeated his remarks, saying that "children should not be exposed to that [homosexuality] at a young age. They don’t understand this. It’s a very difficult thing. And exposing them to homosexuality, especially at a gay pride parade — and I don’t know if you’ve ever been to one — but they wear these little Speedos and they grind against each other. It’s just a terrible thing. Why would you bring your children to that?"

HOMOPHOBIC RANTS INFURIATE PALADINO’S OPENLY GAY NEPHEW

The candidate’s homophobic rants drew a sharp public rebuke from his nephew, Jeff Hannon, who is openly gay. In an interview with the Post, the 23-year-old Hannon, who worked for the Paladino campaign until his uncle’s anti-gay tirades, said that he personally was "very offended" by his uncle’s remarks and abruptly quit the campaign. He hasn’t shown up at Paladino headquarters in Buffalo for more than a week.

The newspaper quoted a Paladino campaign staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, as saying Wednesday that other campaign workers were concerned for Hannon’s whereabouts, particularly in the wake of the recent suicides. "Everybody was talking about it today. They are worried about him," said the staffer. "They think he’s upset."

So, apparently, was the rest of the Paladino family as well. Numerous press reports said that the family demanded that the candidate issue a public apology — which he did in a written statement last Tuesday. "I sincerely apologize for any comment that may have offended the gay and lesbian community or their family members," the Paladono statement said. "Any reference to branding an entire community based on a small representation of them is wrong."

Paladino’s campaign manager, Michael Caputo, confirmed that the candidate’s family has pressured him to apologize, out of concern for Hannon. "Carl felt the sting of this directly through his family and thought through his response with many inputs," said Caputo.

The candidate’s apology, however, cost him the support of the far-right ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Yehuda Levin, whose anti-gay views are only slightly to the left of the gay-hating extremist Kansas cult leader, Fred Phelps.

"Mazel tov," Levin told reporters after Paladino’s mea culpa, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "We’ll have a coming-out party. But when he came to me three days ago, he didn’t know that? I find this to be condescending."

Paladino might have a problem with the Gay Pride parade, but he apparently doesn’t have a problem with lesbians, according to the Web site WNYMedia.net, which published on Wednesday another set of X-rated e-mails purportedly sent by Paladino to his friends. The images include a photo of two lesbians in flagrante delicto, with a one-word comment: "Awesome."

PALADINO WAS LANDLORD TO TWO BUFFALO-AREA GAY BARS

The Tea Party-backed GOP nominee’s anti-gay outbursts were made even more bizarre when the New York Daily News disclosed Wednesday that Paladino was the landlord to two Buffalo-area gay bars from 2004 to 2006 — one of which was co-owned and managed by his son, William Paladino.

A review of liquor license records by the newspaper found that the younger Paladino co-owned and operated Cobalt, a nightclub in downtown Buffalo housed in one of many buildings owned by his father from May 2004 through July 2006. A 2005 review of Cobalt in the Buffalo News described the nightspot as "Way Gay," noting, "The queens, the techno, the cocktails, the kind of gyration normally confined to Manhattan was in full flaming force at Cobalt."

But in late 2005, the younger Paladino abruptly renamed the club Tantra and converted it to a straight nightclub — retaining all the straight bartenders and firing all the gay staff, according to a gay former bartender, Kevin Van Wagner, who told the Daily News, "The way that they did it was really horrible. They told us we were no longer going to be a gay bar, that we [gay bartenders] were no longer going to have jobs."

William Paladino is now a top executive of his father’s Buffalo-based Ellicott Development Company, a property management, leasing and real estate development firm.

The other gay nightspot, Buddies II, which is still operating, was housed in another Paladino-owned building in 2005 and 2006, according to liquor license records. The bar it described itself as a "bar where anyone and everyone is welcome [and] prejudices are left at the door."

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Copyright 2010, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.

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SkeeterVT

SkeeterVT

I'm a native of New York City who's called the Green Mountain State of Vermont home since the summer of 1994.

A former print journalist and newspaper editor, I turned to blogging in 2005 to take advantage of the growing power and influence of the Internet and report news and information without the limitations imposed by editors and by economic constraints -- and to offer insights on current events that have often been ignored by the mainstream news media.

Politically, I acknowledge being an independent left-of-center moderate -- socially liberal and economically conservative -- who's not afraid to sharply criticize hard-liners of both the Left and the Right when necessary.

I'm also a radio DJ. I host northern New England's only Smooth Jazz radio show, "The Quiet Storm," which you can listen to LIVE online every Thursday at 12:00 noon EDT/9:00 a.m. PDT/16:00 GMT on WGDR-FM in Plainfield, Vermont.

http://www.wgdr.org/quietstorm.html.