A few home-stretch thoughts and observations about debates, campaigns and politics around here:
• The big gubernatorial debate on Wednesday made Buffalo the center of the New York political universe. Anyone who ventured past the downtown Channel 17 studios for the face-off featuring Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo, Republican challenger Rob Astorino and two minor party candidates noticed hundreds of people milling about, satellite trucks from around the state, more than 30 reporters covering the event and political celebs galore.
There was only one possible conclusion: The debate was a pretty big deal.
• When the New York State press corps gathered for post-debate analysis Wednesday at the mahogany of Founding Fathers Pub (where else?), the consensus pronounced the event a good one. Limited by time and lots of candidates, but a good one.
If those guys are impressed, the debate must have contained some redeeming social value.
• Why Buffalo? Because Cuomo dearly wants (some say “obsesses”) to win Erie and the eight neighboring counties he lost in 2010.
• Astorino, meanwhile, continued his criticism of Cuomo for refusing to engage in more than one debate. The day after the Buffalo event he implored editorial boards around the state to demand more in the days ahead.
“It will become normal, as it almost seems today, to avoid America’s time-honored tradition of publicly answering questions at open forums before votes are cast,” Astorino wrote. “That would be a civic tragedy.”
• Little news usually stems from debates. But two Cuomo pronouncements provide insight into what to expect should he prevail on Nov. 4.
First, the governor said he would not seek a Thruway toll hike during a second term, despite the massive price tag affixed to building a new Tappan Zee Bridge.
Second, Cuomo pledged to serve a full four-year term. If for some reason fellow New Yorker Hillary Rodham Clinton passes on the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, Cuomo has now removed himself from consideration.
Or he could run and say he changed his mind. Hey, this is politics.
• When Astorino contends his opponent “may very well be indicted” over his Moreland Commission role and Cuomo says the Republican has been accused of racketeering, one thing is clear: these two don’t like each other.
• Green candidate Howie Hawkins and Libertarian Michael McDermott made lots of new friends as a result of the debate. Hawkins impressed with his command of facts and figures. McDermott scored laughs while explaining his Libertarian philosophies to the state for the first time.
Hawkins and McDermott both accomplished their goals of familiarizing voters with their parties. And with Hawkins gaining as much as 9 percent in some polls, some say his effort could land the Green Party on the statewide ballot’s third line for the next four years.
• Cuomo never mentioned it, but he must be sad about the fate of one of his beloved Buffalo construction cranes. The one at HarborCenter was dismantled last week as the new hockey complex nears completion.
• Republican Senate candidate Kevin Stocker has finally filed his latest campaign finance reports required by election law. That’s why they passed the law, so voters could see just exactly how candidates raise and spend campaign funds.
• A new era begins at the Erie County Board of Elections with the expected approval of former Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan as commissioner. He may have recently read in The Buffalo News that outgoing Commissioner Dennis Ward raised Deputy Commissioner Champ Eve’s salary from $79,115 to $93,101 annually, on the same day Eve voted for him at a judicial nominating convention as the cross-endorsed candidate for State Supreme Court.
Ward said at the time that Eve deserved the raise as acting commissioner. Now it’s a sure bet that one of the first questions asked of the new elections boss will be whether Eve’s raise stands.