The Republican candidate for governor, Carl Paladino, says his alliance with a controversial Orthodox activist earlier in his campaign was a mistake and confessed that he knew little about the diversity of the state’s Jewish community.
“I don’t know the difference,” said the Buffalo-based developer and first-time candidate in a phone interview Monday when asked if he had campaigned at a non-Orthodox Jewish venue. “We’ve traveled around the Jewish community and some have the Orthodox stuff on and others have been non-Orthodox.
Paladino made national news on Oct. 10 when he read speeches condemning gay marriage at Orthodox synagogues in Williamsburg and Borough Park, Brooklyn, at the behest of Rabbi Yehuda Levin, a conservative activist against gay rights and abortion. After an outcry over the speeches from commentators, pro-gay groups and other politicians, Paladino apologized and said he was not against gay people, just gay marriage. That caused Rabbi Levin to rescind his endorsement.
“That was a bad day,” Paladino said, referring to the Brooklyn visits. “This is the first time I’ve ever run for elected office. I’ll continue to make mistakes. I’m human.”
Discussing policy issues, Paladino, who has promised to drastically reduce state spending, said that, as governor, he would restore funding to the kosher inspection unit of the state Department of Agriculture, which is due to be downsized at the end of 2010, with only three inspectors retained.
“It’s abominable,” said Paladino of the kosher cut. “It’s a pretty large community. There’s a member item for this and a member item for that. Why can’t we have a member item for this? If it’s important to that community, it should be there.”
Referring to legislative earmarks to community-based organizations, some of which have come under investigation by authorities on suspicion of corruption, Paladino suggested that the overall sum allocated for the grants be reduced by two-thirds to one half, and that the remainder “should be given out equally. Every member should have an equitable allocation … every item should be solely for nonprofits for charitable or education purposes. Right now we’re giving money for nonsense efforts that nobody keeps track of, storefronts that some guy’s brother-in-law [runs], things that are not eligible. It should be verified, and a legislator would sign an affidavit that none of his relatives are getting any part of that money.”
Discussing aid to non-public schools, Paladino said he supported tax credits, vouchers and any other effort to help families avoid failing public schools as well as those who choose to send their children to private or parochial schools. Of objections by the teachers unions to such programs on grounds that it diverts money from education, Paladino said, “That’s just too bad.”
“The public schools are so wasteful. We’ll get rid of all the redundant nonsense coming out of a faceless bureaucracy that is not accountable to the people.”
He added, “We’re going to have a different culture in Albany; it’s not going to be gamesmanship, looking to get re-elected and showing appreciation to union leaders who fill their campaign accounts. I’m going to have transparency in government.”
Regarding federal anti-terrorism funding, Paladino said he didn’t know how he would work with the state’s congressional delegation to avoid cuts in grants to protect possible targets here. “I’m not familiar with the particulars,” he said. “That’s the first time that kind of question has been proposed to me.”
He added, “I’ve read some stuff on that. I assume it’s political. I’ll have to study up on it more.”
Paladino said his campaign was “surging up right now. We’re getting back big time results from the Caller ID.”
He said he was referring to a system where voters were contacted by an automated system and, if they indicated electronically that they were supporting Paladino, were called back by a campaign staffer on the day before the election to make sure they vote.
“It’s going just as planned,” he said of the campaign.