SYRACUSE, N.Y. – George Pataki's ethics were attacked Sunday as Democratic challenger H. Carl McCall and billionaire businessman B. Thomas Golisano used the gubernatorial campaign's second debate to renew charges of wrongdoing in the Republican governor's administration.
After the debate, two top aides to Pataki and Golisano got into an obscenity-laced shouting match that had to be broken up by a police officer.
McCall, the state comptroller, said Pataki's idea of economic development "is to provide contracts to relatives,'' a reference to an architect, a relative by marriage of the governor's wife, getting a lucrative State University of New York contract.
Two SUNY officials eventually lost their jobs following an investigation into the contract. Pataki denied any wrongdoing.
Golisano, the Independence Party candidate, brought up more than 2-year-old charges that a fund-raiser for Pataki's 1994 campaign against Democrat Mario Cuomo had offered potential contributors parole for relatives in return for donations.
Pataki and his top aides denied any knowledge of the alleged scheme. Three parole board officials and the fund-raiser were subsequently convicted, but Golisano questioned why parole board chairman Brion Travis, who he said was an unindicted coconspirator in the scheme, was still on the job.
"The people of this state have seen me in office for the last 7 1/2 years,'' Pataki responded. "They know we have upheld the highest standards of integrity across our state. I'm proud of our team and I'm proud of what they've done.''
After the debate, Pataki campaign spokesman Michael McKeon and Golisano media adviser Erick Mullen got into a shouting match in the lobby of WTVH, where the debate was held. A police officer told the men to calm down or leave.
Polls have shown Pataki with double-digit leads over McCall and Golisano trailing but making gains, particularly in upstate New York.
Pataki said he was proud of his work to boost economic development, particularly in struggling upstate New York. He said more than 600,000 jobs had been created under his watch.
Golisano scoffed at that, saying jobs had fled upstate New York under Pataki.
"Governor Pataki has done a pretty job creating jobs — for states like North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Florida and California,'' he said.
Pataki had successfully demanded the debate, like the first of the campaign a week ago, include all minor-party candidates — limiting the time available to the main challengers to make their case and to attack the front-runner.