Republican New York State gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro appeared to strike the right tone with many of the roughly 150 people who came out to hear his platform Tuesday at Veterans of Foreign Wars Leonard Post No. 6251 on Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga.
Those in attendance came not only from Erie County and Niagara Falls – but as far away as Rochester – to question the youngest man elected Dutchess County county executive on issues ranging from job creation and gun rights to Medicaid and sanctuary cities.
Molinaro is seeking to succeed two-term Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and, as Molinaro put it, put New York back to work, by making it more affordable to do business in the state.
"This is what my belief is: cut the cost of living in New York State. You have to start there, because we are not competitive. It is cheaper to do anything anywhere else in America. Anything. A mile of railroad track in Long Island, New York, is five times more expensive in New York than it is anywhere in the world, including Paris, France," Molinaro said.
The key, he said, is driving down property taxes to cut costs, deregulating and streamlining the process to do business in New York, which will make it more affordable for businesses.
He also stressed investing in small and mid-size businesses and forging relationships between business organizations, chambers of commerce and the state university system, as well as private colleges.
He stressed using local education systems "to help people enter the workforce for the jobs they want, they job we need and the jobs we have and those who re-enter the workforce for the jobs we have and the jobs we need."
"Which means, by the way, that we don't teach to kids to take tests. We teach kids to be inspired and there to learn," Molinaro said.
"This governor and this government thinks the only way you create jobs is to cut people a check. So I'm going to use this opportunity to say, if you here thinking that Marc Molinaro is going stand in front of some business with a giant, plastic check saying I did this for you, forget it. It's not happening," he said.
"It's not my money. It's not his money. It's your money. It's not appropriate to cut a check and give it to a business owner. It isn't. That's not how you grow jobs. It's money laundering," Molinaro added.
When a former Marine asked Molinaro what he planned to do to empower young conservatives who feel their voices are being suppressed, he replied: "I believe that everyone, regardless of party affiliation or ideology, has a right to be heard. That means, I actually embrace the First Amendment in all of its glory, which means to me that those who are left of center and right of center deserve to be at the table."
"Four years ago, the governor stood in front of people and said: 'If you are too far to the right, you've got no place in New York.' So let me give you my position: if you are too far to the left, you have every place in New York. At the end of the day, great ideas are better through democracy, the republic that we live in. Democracy is better when we consider people with whom we disagree," Molinaro said.
"If we are going to function as a society, it means that we have to respect each other, respect our different points of view, but find commonality, which doesn't mean dismissing people because they don't agree with us, they don't look like us, they feel the way we do, they haven't lived here long enough, they haven't the right ideas," Molinaro said.
He was at times self-deprecating, and shared with the audience his own experiences having to rely on food stamps growing up, and offered that he understands the struggles of everyday New Yorkers because he continues to experience them.
A 16-year-old student asked Molinaro if he would reinstate the Moreland Commission created and then disbanded under Cuomo.
"We will re-establish the Moreland Commission and we will stay out of its way," he said. "I will ask the state Legislature to adopt the universal code of ethics and I will ask for an independent ethics committee not beholden to the governor or to the Legislature."
Molinaro added the universal ethics code would include language addressing sexual harassment in the workplace.
Molinaro addressed the SAFE Act and gun rights in the state.
"I have, I am and I will defend Second Amendment rights. Period," he said, to applause.
Lou Marrara, of Hamburg, asked Molinaro why he chose Julie Killian, of Rye in Westchester County, to be his running mate for lieutenant governor since she is on record as being against repealing the SAFE Act.
Molinaro said he selected Killian for a variety of reasons, including her support of the Second Amendment.
"She's fought corruption in her hometown and she supports the defense of the Second Amendment. More importantly than that, when I asked her to join my ticket, I said, 'You need to uphold my agenda and policies and she agreed to it, wholeheartedly, without question," Molinaro said.