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No Gay Bombshells in N.Y. Debate

No Gay Bombshells in N.Y. Debate


Following more than a week of conversation about the homophobic comments of New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino and a series of high-profile antigay hate crimes, little of the seven-way gubernatorial debate Monday night touched on gay rights issues, and even those moments brought few sparks.

Only the final question of the debate focused directly on the subject. Candidates were asked to say whether they supported marriage equality with a one-word "yes" or "no" reply. As expected, Paladino answered no, Democratic nominee Andrew Cuomo answered yes, along with four third-party candidates including former madam Kristin Davis, and one candidate, New York City council member Charles Barron, said that his Freedom Party had yet to take a position.

An unusual reply came from Jimmy McMillan of the single-issue Rent Is Too Damn High Party, who enthusiastically expressed his support for unlimited personal freedom by saying, "If you want to marry a shoe, I'll marry it."

The last question aside, the first televised gubernatorial debate, held at Hofstra University on Long Island, mainly covered well-worn terrain such as the economy, education, and the environment, in a format that lent itself more to barroom one-liners than the "Broadway show" predicted by Paladino's campaign manager moments before it began. The volatile Republican nominee seemed almost subdued, while Cuomo, the attorney general, looked every bit the front-runner, a position enhanced by the occasional salvo from third-party opponents.

The format -- seven candidates in a 90-minute time frame -- discouraged conversations of substance and new revelations, let alone epic gaffes along the lines of what Paladino said earlier this month about children being "brainwashed" into thinking homosexuality was an "equally valid or successful option." At one point, Cuomo referred to education inequity as the "civil rights issue of our time," a potentially awkward phrasing given that he said the same about marriage equality last week to a roomful of gay activists at the Empire State Pride Agenda fall dinner.

In the spin room with reporters following the debate, Cuomo's running mate, Robert Duffy, said that all civil rights issues are equally important to the campaign.

"I don't put those at one, two, three, four," said Duffy, the mayor of Rochester. "Any issue of civil rights in this state is really at the top or tied with everything else. The civil rights issues certainly don't take a back seat to anyone. I think the issues of both marriage equality and education are two of the major ones that we face and hopefully in the Cuomo administration, we'll see tremendous gains in both those areas."

During the relatively subdued debate, convicted madam Davis, who allegedly supplied female escorts to former governor turned CNN host Eliot Spitzer, launched the first, and perhaps the most stinging, zinger of the evening when she attacked Paladino, with whom she shares a campaign adviser, Republican operative Roger Stone.

Responding to another candidate's proposal to raise revenue with a tax on stock transfers, Davis said the idea would cause business to leave the state "quicker than Carl Paladino at a gay bar." The Buffalo businessman has reportedly rented his buildings to gay bars despite his opposition to gay pride parades.

Reading mostly from notes, Davis, the candidate of the Anti-Prohibition Party, made other clever references between her former occupation and state government, at one point saying that unlike the troubled Mass Transit Agency, her escort service delivered "on time and reliable service." She also touted her skills in human resources.

"The career politicians in Albany may be the biggest whores in this state," she said. "I might be the only person sitting on the stage with the right experience to deal with them."
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