How to lose votes and alienate people

It has gotten to the point where I’m actually afraid to read or watch anything about Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Carl Paladino. I just don’t want to know about his latest affront or speculate over which group of New York voters he’ll alienate next.

My liberal friends and co-workers are having a field day of course, watching this oh-so-public meltdown of the Republican Party. And Paladino’s opponent, Democrat Andrew Cuomo, has to be thrilled. Think of all the money he’s saving on campaigning. Paladino’s doing enough damage to himself without Cuomo even having to lift a finger. Heck, the Chenango County Democrats didn’t even feel the need to open an election headquarters this year. I think that speaks volumes.

But me? I weep a little every time I see another person “like” the New Yorkers Against Carl Paladino page on Facebook. Because it’s an indication of how the Republican Party is missing out on the chance of a lifetime.

Governor David Paterson’s inability to pass a budget on time – even with his own party in the majority in both the Senate and Assembly – created that opportunity. Then there are the staggering cuts in school aid which led to teacher layoffs across the state, threats to close to state parks, the proposed tax on sugary beverages, reinstating the clothing tax ... Yeah, the list goes on. All that dysfunction provided the entree Republicans needed to make a resurgence in Albany.

But they dropped the ball in a big way.

Their first mistake was endorsing Rick Lazio. I’m sure they considered him as electable as any Republican could be. Unfortunately Lazio, who served four terms in Congress representing New York’s 2nd District, was probably best known throughout the rest of the state for losing to Hillary Clinton in the 2000 Senate race.

Nothing against Lazio, but the endorsement showed the growing disconnect between the party leadership and all those registered Republicans out there. They also underestimated the pull of the Tea Party, which, although it has an unmistakable air of “lunatic fringe” at times, has certainly managed to shake things up.

If they’d put a Rudy Giuliani-type out there, it might have gone down differently on Primary Day.

Now, I guess, it’s time for me to enter the Ballot Box Confessional. Because the oval I filled in on my ballot in the September primary was not the one next to Lazio’s name, but that of Carl Paladino.

Go ahead, commence with the stoning.

Here was a Buffalo businessman, someone from upstate, who was bucking the party line. I was trying to send a message with my vote and that message was that I wasn’t happy with the party leadership and their candidate. So it was with a certain Twisted Sister song ( “We’re not gonna take it”), in my head that I cast my vote for Paladino.

It didn’t cross my mind that he might actually win. Now, of course, I’m suffering from primary remorse in a big way.

I was mildly uncomfortable with some of his statements early on, and was even prepared to ignore the scene he made at the Business Council of New York State annual meeting. (Although it wasn’t lost on me that the organization – which has never in its history endorsed a candidate – publicly endorsed Cuomo after the event.)

But as I learned more about his positions, and plans for the state, I grew more wary. The final straw was the comments he made about homosexuality when addressing a group of Orthodox rabbis.

I read an interesting political commentary on Paladino’s remarks, penned by John Avlon, author of “Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America.” In his opinion, the gubernatorial candidate’s comments were scripted, not off the cuff, and a deliberate attempt to further polarize voters.

Well, I guess you could say it worked. Because I know more than a few moderates like me that it polarized right the heck over the party line.

So, Mr. Paladino, I regret to inform you that you have most assuredly lost this particular Republican vote.

Best of luck in November.

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