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GOP candidate for governor calls for term limits

WBFO file photo

The Republican candidate for governor, Marc Molinaro, is proposing term limits of two four-year terms for statewide offices – including the office of governor – and 12-year limits for state lawmakers.

Molinaro said it’s up to the governor of the state to set an example. He said if he is elected in November, he’d limit himself to two terms in office. He said it’s healthy for democracy.

“One of the reasons why New York has a more corrupted government than any other in the country is because there are entrenched people who think public service is about them, and not the people,” Molinaro said.

Molinaro said Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is seeking a third term as governor, has amassed too much power and soured too many relationships in his eight years in the job, and should not even be seeking another four years.

“The tone around here is too toxic, too corrosive, too combative,” Molinaro said. “And, sadly, too stale.”

Many state Assembly members and senators have been in office for decades. Molinaro said they would be grandfathered in and would not immediately have to leave their jobs under his proposal.

But he said he’d push for two four-year terms for governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller and attorney general, and six two-year terms for senators and Assembly members, as one of his first acts in office. He said he’d even put it into a take-it-or-leave-it budget resolution, if necessary.

“It will be the first package of bills that I present to the state Legislature,” he said. “And I will require a vote one way or another.”

Though Cuomo is seeking a third term in office, he put a two-term limit provision for statewide elected officials into his budget plan this year. The Legislature did not accept the provision.

Molinaro, who has held public office for more than two decades, beginning as mayor of his hometown of Tivoli as a teenager, is in his second term as Dutchess County executive. He is not advocating for a law to limit the terms of local government officials, saying that should be up to each individual community. But he said he thinks county executives should not serve more than three terms.

Some government reform groups support term limits.

Citizens Union’s Ethan Geringer-Sameth said his group decided to endorse term limits for governor, lieutenant governor and state legislators when it was advocating for a statewide constitutional convention in 2017. Voters would have the option of revisiting the policy in 20 years. The constitutional convention was rejected by voters and never happened.

But he said two terms should be enough for a governor to accomplish what he or she needs to do.

“Eight years is quite a long time,” Geringer-Sameth said.

But Jennifer Wilson, with the League of Women Voters, said it’s better to first expand New Yorkers’ access to voting by enacting early voting and making it easier to register to vote. She said ending gerrymandered legislative districts designed to protect incumbents also would help.

“We’d be a totally different state,” Wilson said.

Bills to open up voting in New York remain stalled in the Senate.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.