Herbert I. London, the Conservative Party candidate for governor, vowed Thursday to campaign against abortion, excessive state spending and other issues that he says state Republicans seem reluctant to raise.
"My goal in this campaign is not to be a spoiler . . . it's time to challenge . . . (the) leadership in the Republican Party," London said during a campaign stop in Buffalo.
By trade, London teaches New York University students about the Great Books. In his politics, he has been compared with one of his subjects, Don Quixote, the idealistic knight who jousted with windmills.
London agreed to become standard bearer for the tiny Conservative Party to give Republicans an alternative to their endorsed candidate, Pierre Rinfret, who Conservatives regard as "a junior Mario Cuomo." Rinfret, a Canadian-born economist, is pro-choice on the abortion.
Conservative leaders, traditional allies of the Republicans in recent statewide races, reject Rinfret saying "London is the only clear alternative to Cuomo."
As the head of an experimental college division with an otherwise liberal faculty, London, 51, appears comfortable with holding unpopular views.
"I am probably the only conservative in Greenwich Village," he said during a meeting with the editorial board of The Buffalo News.
London is dean of NYU's Gallatin division, which allows students to design their own courses centered around studies of the great writers of the Western World.
A New York native from a blue-collar family, London says he has "asphalt in my blood, having played in every basketball court in New York City." He grew up in Brooklyn and Queens, attending public high schools.
He outlined these positions on what he said are the major campaign issues:
Taxes and spending -- the level of spending under the Cuomo administration is driving business and jobs out of New York and that the average person has lost a voice in holding down state spending.
He called for cuts in Medicaid and welfare, and said the state tuition formula should be changed to reduce fees for poor students and raised for the wealthy. His plan could generate about $500 million in savings for the state university system, he says.
Social issues -- he opposes all abortions except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. He also opposes changing school courses to make them more acceptable to minority students, saying it is impossible to "organize history . . . around the ethnicity of students."
Crime and punishment -- he favors the death penalty even if it does not deter crime because it is just retribution against criminals. More prisons can be built for about one-third of the state-projected costs of $100,000 per cell, he says, and said creating more jobs will help fight crime.
Education -- he proposes state vouchers for up to $2,500 per student to allow parents to shop for the best schools to teach their children, public or private. The money could be taken from the state's education budget without harming public schools because too much is paid now for administering the system, he says.
Housing -- rent control hurts small property owners and fails to create housing for low income residents. London said he prefers a voucher system for low income tenants to give developers an incentive to build more housing and also favors giving developers rights to build affordable high rise housing in the "air rights" above public schools.