Who is Carl Paladino?

Carl Paladino won the GOP gubernatorial primary in New York. Some of his proposals have already raised eyebrows, and he says he’s not afraid to be confrontational.

By , Staff writer

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    Carl Paladino on stage after winning the New York GOP gubernatorial primary in Buffalo, N.Y. on Sept. 14.
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Call Carl Paladino, the Republican candidate for New York governor, “an angry man.”

Mr. Paladino, an upstate real estate developer, spits out tough statements. In one of his campaign ads, he promises to “clean out [the state capital of] Albany with a baseball bat.” He wants to cut taxes by 10 percent within six months of taking office. And he would settle the controversy over the proposed Islamic center in lower Manhattan by having the state take over the property by eminent domain.

“I bring values, resiliency, a thick skin, and I’m not afraid to be confrontational,” Paladino told The Buffalo News during a three-hour interview in April. “I don’t remember anyone before bringing that to the table.”

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But can that approach win in November?

Paladino does bring considerable funds to the table: He spent at least $3 million of his own money on the primary, says pollster Lee Miringoff of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. And he has "tea party" support and a connection to the conservative wing of the Republican Party, and he brings legitimate outsider status to the race. “He is someone to be reckoned with,” Mr. Miringoff says.

However, Miringoff wonders if Paladino is “outside the range of acceptability” to the broader electorate, since elections are usually won by appealing to the “soft center.” There have been no recent polls showing how Paladino would do against state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic candidate, Miringoff says.

“The polls from the spring probably would not mean a whole lot right now,” he says. “It’s hard to tell what kind of bounce he’ll get.”

Paladino certainly knows how to get attention. One of his campaign mailings – which told voters on the outside of the envelope that something smells in Albany – had a scent inside that made it stink like a landfill. Speaking of New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, he says, “A fish rots from the head.”

Such pronouncements guarantee a lively fall campaign, says Doug Muzzio, a political commentator at Baruch College in New York. “The entertainment value of the campaign just went up dramatically,” he says. “You get at least one hand grenade a day with Carl.”

After he won, Paladino issued a call for debates with Mr. Cuomo. There have not been reports that Cuomo has replied to the challenge. But “the Cuomo people must be salivating,” Mr. Muzzio says.

Miringoff says he expects Cuomo’s surrogates to begin to fill in Paladino’s biography “in ways he would not want done.”

According to the Buffalo paper, Paladino, who espouses family values, has a daughter with a former employee who is not his wife. Although he tells voters he is conservative, he had given money to Al Gore, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Sen. Charles Schumer (D), the paper says. And as a landlord, he made a lot of money renting space to the state in Albany and using state tax incentives for his real estate empire.

Since he ran against Albany, Paladino is not likely to get much help from his own party, says Mr. Muzzio. “Paladino is a one-man show and will remain that,” he predicts.

However, it’s not clear what the support of the party brings: For the primary, it supported former congressman Rick Lazio, who won only 37 percent of the vote.

Paladino is unknown to most voters, Miringoff points out. “And some states get won by people who are unknown,” says the veteran pollster.

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