Controversial Paladino, O’Donnell Win in Primary Upsets

The rallies, the signs, the costumes, the anger – it seems the persistence of the controversial Tea Party movement in the last year is starting to pay off.

In a shocking New York gubernatorial primary Tuesday night, Buffalo businessman and self-proclaimed “baseball bat” wielding candidate Carl Paladino beat the heavily supported candidate, Rick Lazio, with 63 percent of the Republican vote. Paladino, a multi-millionaire who has never run for office prior to this election, is a member of the Tea Party movement.

Equally shocking was Christine O’Donnell’s primary win that same evening in Delaware. O’Donnell, also a Republican backed by the Tea Party movement, beat U.S. Rep. Mike Castle with 53 percent of the vote. Her name will be on the ballot in November, as she tries to fill the Senate seat vacated by Vice President Joe Biden.

Both O’Donnell and Paladino are highly provocative figures.  Paladino was caught in a tizzy this April after it was released that he had sent out what many consider several offensive e-mails to his colleagues. The e-mails included, among other things, a picture of President Barack Obama dressed like a pimp, and Michelle Obama as a prostitute. One e-mail included a picture of a woman having sex with a horse.  O’Donnell, who is Catholic and an advocate for abstinence, is well-known for voicing anti-pornography and anti-masturbation views in the 1990s on the MTV show, “Sex in the 90’s.” She has also been accused by her former campaign manager Kristin Murray of using campaign donations to pay rent and personal expenses.

But voters, it seems, are not focused on these distinctions as much as they are focused on removing the status quo in government — and for voters, that is exactly what these two candidates represent. A CNN poll conducted September 1 and 2 showed that only 25 percent of Americans surveyed fully trust government.

Paladino has vowed to make the New York State government functional again, but he does tend to put it more colorfully than other candidates. At a press conference in early June, Paladino famously said other candidates for governor might take a broom, or “maybe even a mop,” to clean up Albany.  “Me, I’ll clean out Albany with a baseball bat,” said Paladino.

As lined out in his victory speech late Tuesday night, Paladino will run on the basis of “cultural change” in Albany to “clean out the cesspool of corruption so our government serves the people once and for all.”

If elected, Paladino’s stated goals include to cut taxes by 10 percent in his first six months, cut spending and the size of government by 20 percent and Medicaid by $20 billion in his first year, and end bureaucratic harassment of the private sector by slashing business regulations.

O’Donnell’s specific goals are less clear, but she thanked former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin in her victory speech Wednesday evening.

“There’s another woman I’ve gotta thank, you betcha!,” she said Palin’s endorsement of her, which came via Twitter, Sept. 9.

“I’d like to make this election about the issues,” she said, “How we’re going to get jobs back in Delaware, how we’re going to protect the security of our homeland, how we’re going to take care of our veterans, how we’re going to make sure that future generations are not saddled with a crippling debt. So I’m hoping that that can be the focus of the general election.”

Whether it’s about the issues, anti-incumbency fever, voting trends, or anything else, Democrats have some less traditional Republican opponents to face in November.

Emily Atkin

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