ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo says “extreme conservatives” don’t fit in with most New Yorkers.
“If they are extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York,” Cuomo said in a radio interview Friday.
Cuomo defined “extreme conservatism” as being “anti-gay” by opposing same-sex marriage rights, opposed to abortion rights and favoring legalization of assault weapons. Cuomo officials later said the governor’s remarks were aimed at “extremist” conservative Republican candidates.
Maybe someone like Buffalo’s Carl Paladino, although Cuomo did not name names.
But Paladino isn’t going anywhere. In fact, the Buffalo businessman and conservative who lost to Cuomo in the 2010 election has threatened to campaign not just against Cuomo but against the moderate Republican lawmakers in Albany whom Cuomo says belong in New York’s tent.
Paladino called Cuomo’s remarks the thinking of “a liberal elitist ... who thinks New York is his little play toy.
“I think it’s Andrew Cuomo just illustrating what kind of person he is. He doesn’t want any debate. He’s narcissistic. He doesn’t believe in debate or opposition," Paladino told The Buffalo News.
Cuomo, speaking Friday on public radio’s “The Capitol Pressroom” show, said Republicans have to decide if they are “extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault weapon, anti-gay.”
Cuomo officials later said that the governor’s remarks were not aimed the general population who are on the far right of the political spectrum - just the candidates. They noted that the governor in the interview said it is “fine” if conservative Republicans are opposed to abortion rights, opposed to gun control measures and are opposed to gay marriage rights and are “anti-gay,” but that their positions are out of step with 70 percent of New Yorkers.
The examples he gave of “moderate” Republicans include Republicans who partially control the State Senate and the administration of former Gov. George Pataki, who beat Cuomo’s father, Mario Cuomo, in the 1994 gubernatorial election.
The governor made his remarks while discussing what he called a power struggle within the state Republican Party between its conservative and moderate wings.
“They are searching to find their soul,” he said of GOP leaders on both sides.
“Moderate Republicans have a place in this state,” Cuomo said, adding that he has cut deals with such moderates in the Legislature on an assortment of social and fiscal matters for the past three years.
The head of the Conservative Party called Cuomo’s rhetoric over the top.
“For him to try to paint people who have different points of view that they are odd and extreme, I think is bad language for the governor of the state of New York,” said Michael Long, chairman of the state Conservative Party.
Long said he also found it curious that Cuomo’s comments came while talking about internal strife within the Republican Party when Cuomo’s own Democratic Party has its battles between moderate and left-leaning elements.
“I guess the governor believes if you don’t believe the way he does, there’s not room in what he thinks is his state. I believe this state is made up of men and women from Niagara Falls to Montauk Point who have all sorts of views, some who believe in the Second Amendment, some who believe in traditional marriage, some who believe government, especially in New York State, spends too much money and taxes are too high,” Long said.
On the issue of campaign finance, Cuomo dismissed as “baloney” issues about how he raised $33.3 million in re-election funds, much of it from deep-pocket donors. The New York Public Interest Research group said Thursday that 45 percent of the money Cuomo has raised the past three years came from people and entities giving more than $40,000 apiece.
“I don’t care if someone gave me a ton of money or gave me no money. It makes no difference,” Cuomo said.