Blue-state gov Cuomo paints GOP opponent as Trump's 'Mini-Me' during only debate before election

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo went nasty against his Republican challenger Marc Molinaro, who counterpunched by accusing the Democratic incumbent of widespread corruption during Tuesday's only scheduled debate before next month’s election.

Cuomo repeatedly linked Molinaro to President Trump, a tactic calculated to be effective in heavily Democratic New York.

Cuomo decried Molinaro as Trump’s “Mini-Me,” referring to the sidekick of the villainous Dr. Evil of the "Austin Powers" movies, and weaponized the president’s unpopularity in his home state to attack the Republican candidate.

“The extreme conservative wing that Mr. Molinaro and Mr. Trump represent exclude everything. They’re anti-women. They’re anti-LGBTQ,” Cuomo said after being asked about education policy.

But Molinaro, trailing heavily in the polls against Cuomo -- who’s seeking a third term -- countered the attacks by questioning Cuomo’s complicity in corruption.

“Governor, you have led the most corrupted state government in America,” he said, bringing up the recent criminal conviction of Joseph Percoco, a close Cuomo aide who traded influence for both money and a job for his wife. “At what point, after eight years of being in office, do you take responsibility?”

"Governor, you have led the most corrupted state government in America. At what point, after eight years of being in office, do you take responsibility?"

— Marc Molinaro

Cuomo remained consistent with his strategy to link Molinaro to Trump, even attacking the Republican’s answer that there need to be more support services for homeless people and their mental health.

“This is so hypocritical for you to sit here, an acolyte of Donald Trump, Mini-Me of Donald Trump, who is decimating health care in this state,” Cuomo said.

He went on to press Molinaro on whether he supports the president, a question Molinaro refused to answer and instead said he supported policies that would improve the state’s economy.

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Molinaro slammed Cuomo’s management of the economy and taxation and said he abandoned the responsibility for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees the state’s public transit network.

The latest Quinnipiac University poll, conducted before the debate, found Cuomo leading by 23 points.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.