If the November election for governor generates as much interest as the experts predict, the contest should go down as one of the most colorful in Empire State history.

The harsh reality though, it might reflect more heat than light.

Minor parties and independent candidates have been part of the political landscape for decades but voters have seldom faced such a daunting task.

The choice: Andrew Cuomo, an old-line politician who has been a major player in the dysfunctional system that has left millions of New Yorkers disgusted or Carl Paladino, a Buffalo businessman and Niagara Falls hotel owner, generally perceived as a loose cannon for forwarding racist and sexist e-mails and for blasting government while benefiting from huge government contracts.

At the same time, Cuomo, the state attorney general, should find it challenging to campaign under the banner to reform state government. It’s hard to visualize any ‘Tea Party’ supporters breaking ranks with Paladino for someone who represents the old school.

Meanwhile, Paladino’s platform conjures up thoughts of Jesse “The Body” Ventura, a professional wrestler elected governor of Minnesota in 1998 on the Reform Party ticket. He spent only about $300,000 running with a slogan, “Don’t vote for politics as usual.” It didn’t matter what credentials Jesse lacked for the highest elective office in the state. The people were just fed up.

Sound familiar?

As with Paladino, the public was often shocked by the Minnesota governor’s comments (e.g. “Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people.”)

Paladino’s debut in the Big Apple — soon after his primary victory — rankled some observers.

The New York Daily News front-page headline invited readers to “Meet Crazy Carl!” The newspaper pointed out that Paladino said earlier that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver belongs in prison and former Gov. George A. Pataki was a “degenerate idiot.”

Paladino also let it be known that, if elected, he will pink slip state employees whom he calls “well-connected brothers-in-law,” “leeches” and “wall-to-wall crooks.”

With the two gubernatorial candidates barely out of the gate, both sides have already fired heavy salvos.

State Democratic Chair Jay Jacobs said: “GOP voters who picked Carl Paladino because they were ‘mad as hell’ at Albany are in for a rude awakening when they realize that Paladino embodies everything they’re mad about.”

Paladino’s campaign manager Michael Caputo blasted the Democratic critics, saying, “They’re just trying to urinate on our coverage.”

For the record, it is a little scary, however, to hear a newcomer to politics promising to clean up Albany with a baseball bat and even leave blood on the floor. The state’s chief executive needs to be a little more diplomatic in his oratory.

Amidst all the angry outbursts, Cuomo has remained above the fray. One veteran Capitol Hill reporter suggested that Prince Andrew, as he is known in the enemy camp, let his surrogates serve up the red meat.

It should be an interesting match up. Stay tuned.


SPECIAL SALUTE: Craig McCalister, a former Youngstown resident and staffer at the U.S. Coast Guard’s Leadership and Management School, Connecticut, has been named Instructor of the Year for 2010.

McCalister, a 1986 graduate of Lewiston-Porter High School, was selected from all enlisted, officer and civilians members of the Leadership Development Center’s instructional staff.

During a recent ceremony at the base, a spokesman said Chief Boatswain’s Mate McCalister had logged more than 500 hours on the podium at the Leadership and Management School and had stepped up to cover a critical need for a specialized Boat Forces Command course.

McCalister also was cited for providing more than a thousand hours of mentoring to students and continuing to offer that kind of help long after the students graduated.

The award recipient is the son of Gail McCalister, Youngstown, and the late Watson McCalister. He and his wife Lyn have a son Ian. The family lives in Groton, Ct.

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