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Former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner enters the governor's race

Karen DeWitt

Former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner is entering the race for governor against incumbent Andrew Cuomo. The long time Democrat is the candidate for a newly formed political movement.

Miner, coming to the race relatively late, and with little money and name recognition outside of upstate New York, says she knows she faces an uphill battle.

“The challenges are clearly there,” said Miner, who said there is also an “opportunity” for a new message in what she says is a “toxic” political atmosphere.

"My path in life has always been the harder path,” she said. “I have more integrity when I do it.”

Miner brings to the race her experience running the City of Syracuse for 8 years, where she says she often faced roadblocks of bureaucracy and red tape when she tried to improve the city’s fortunes.  She began her career working for the late Governor Mario Cuomo, the current governor’s father, as a regional representative. Miner was a co leader of the state Democratic Party under Andrew Cuomo, but had a falling out over state aid to cities, writing an Op Ed in the New York Times which criticized Cuomo.   

She says the corruption charges against several former Cuomo associates and the on going trials for bribery and bid rigging in federal court helped her make up her mind to run.

Miner is running under the banner of a new party, the Serve America movement, or SAM, made up of people disaffected with the major political parties after the 2016 election. It’s board members have worked in the past for both Republicans and Democrats, including former President George W Bush and Condoleezza Rice.  Miner believes that the political sands are shifting and the traditional parties are disintegrating.

“Look at what we saw with Bernie Sanders, and for that matter, with Donald Trump,” Miner said. “More and more people who were saying ‘the system isn’t working, and it’s hurting us’.”

Democratic allies of Governor Cuomo immediately attacked Miner’s candidacy. The former Syracuse Common Council President called it a “fool’s errand” that will only help Republicans while dividing the Democrats.

Cuomo campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith, in a tweet, called Miner’s campaign a “bizarre gambit."

Miner calls the seemingly orchestrated comments “faux grassroots outrage” and says her critics are “vested in the current status quo."

The former mayor’s views fall somewhere in between liberal  Democratic primary challenger Cynthia Nixon, and Republican candidate Marc Molinaro.

Miner, unlike Nixon, does not back expanding the state’s millionaire’s tax, saying she fears the wealthy who are facing new tax burdens under the federal republican tax overhaul, will leave the state.

She says she raised the minimum wage for city of Syracuse employees to $15 an hour, but does not necessarily back a statewide minimum wage at that rate, saying “there is a difference between Buffalo and Brooklyn”.

Miner says property taxes are too high, and she blames unfunded state mandates like required spending on pensions and Medicaid.

And she says if she were governor, she would close  the projected budget deficit , by getting rid of programs that aren’t working, like economic development programs that have led to empty buildings and corruption charges.

“Let’s look at the programs that don’t work and are failures,” she said. “And looking at the spending that has rewarded campaign contributors, and rewarded boondoggle projects, and say, ‘we can’t have that’."

She says she’d take a hard look at the tax breaks for the film and television industries.

Miner wants to reform campaign contributions and get rid of anonymous contributions by eliminating the Limited Liability Company loophole. But she say she’s not ready to back public campaign finance, because she says there’s not enough trust right now among voters in the political system.

Both Nixon and Molinaro welcomed Miner to the race. Nixon says her entry “shows the extent of New York's disgust with Andrew Cuomo's corrupt boys club”. Molinaro, in a statement , says Miner “ has been an outspoken critic of Andrew Cuomo’s reckless administration of this state”. And he says it’s “no surprise” that the race for governor is now a four way contest.

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.