The Best Moments From New York's Wacky Gubernatorial Debate

During the closing statements, Paladino wandered offstage to find a bathroom

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On Monday, Andrew Cuomo and Carl Paladino, along with five third-party candidates for governor, took the stage at Hofstra University for what may be the only debate of the New York gubernatorial race. The debate was probably one of the more colorful we'll see this year. Front-runners Cuomo and Paladino have already run campaigns verging on spectacle (particularly Paladino, with his garbage-scented fliers, anti-gay slurs and occasional threats of bodily harm), and their colleagues onstage included a former madam and a representative of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party. Here are a few of the highlights, as well as takeaways from the debate as a whole:

  • 'If You Want to Marry a Shoe, I'll Marry You'  This was Jimmy McMillan's response to a question posed to all seven candidates about their stance on gay marriage. McMillan, a Vietnam veteran who has twice run for mayor of New York City with the Rent Is Too Damn High Party, was the breakout star of Monday's debate, repeating his party's name-cum-platform several times and saying, at one point, "As a karate expert, I will not talk about anybody up here. Because our children have nowhere to go."

  • Former Madam Compares Politicians to Whores  Kristin Davis, the onetime madam said to have provided ex-Governor Eliot Spitzer with escorts, said at one point that "the career politicians in Albany are the biggest whores in this state. I might be the only person sitting on this podium qualified to deal with them." Davis, the candidate of the Anti-Prohibition Party, got in a few more zingers during the evening, saying that "the key difference between the M.T.A. and my former escort agency is I operated one set of books and I offered on-time and reliable service," and joking that if a tax on stock transfers was passed, "businesses will leave the state faster than Carl Paladino at a gay bar."

  • Libertarian Disclaims Hookers, Nepotism  Warren Redlich, of the Libertarian Party, took a moment to introduce himself: "My name's Warren Redlich. I'm not your typical New York politician. I've never been caught with a prostitute. My dad wasn't governor and I've never been convicted of a crime." Beyond these pointed barbs, Redlich is said to have comported himself well; Salon's Adam Hanft called him "wonky and strangely likable."

  • Paladino Wanders Off Stage to Find a Bathroom  This happened during the closing statements. The most anyone has offered by way of explanation is the old chestnut quoted by Paladino's campaign manager, Michael Caputo: "When you gotta go, you gotta go."

And the reactions:

  • Could Have Been a Lot Worse  The Washington Post's Lois Romano is impressed at how civilly the candidates conducted themselves, all things considered. "Miracles can happen," Romano writes. "The inclusion of so many long shots risked turning the debate into an unwieldy circus, but the evening's tight format prevented any free-wheeling exchanges."

  • Important Things Went Unsaid  At Salon, Adam Hanft writes that "a two-man debate would have been more valuable, and would have forced Cuomo and Paladino to confront each other more directly. Missing from everyone's lips is that sacrifice is required. New York has an $8.2 billion budget deficit, and massive unpaid pension liabilities. There will be blood, but none of the shrinking seven seemed willing or able to summon us to the moment." Hanft noted that Cuomo and Paladino didn't directly acknowledge each other all night, saying "it felt like an ex-husband and a current husband showed up at the same party, and neither wanted to get things going."

  • Cuomo Up, Paladino Way Down  "There can be no question that after this debate, Paladino is over: finito," writes Tunku Varadarajan at The Daily Beast. "He was fidgety, furrow-faced, almost entirely unsmiling, and largely inarticulate." Cuomo, by contrast, "was prepped and predictable, with not a phrase out of place, not a phrase that surprised ... There is no question that Cuomo will waltz away with the job on November 2."

  • No One Really Impressive Here  The New Yorker's Amy Davidson notes that Cuomo leaned on clichés, Paladino radiated "detached contempt," and Davis resembled "an ill-trained high-school debater, constantly checking her notes." Davidson writes that Redlich and Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins "may have acquitted themselves best, or at least in a way that was both thoughtful and true to their constituencies," but that overall "the candidates were not doing a good job of illustrating the value of talking."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.