Karen DeWitt

Capitol Bureau Correspondent, Albany

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.

She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now.  She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers. 

Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.

She is a past recipient of the prestigious Walter T. Brown Memorial award for excellence in journalism, from the Legislative Correspondents Association, and was named Media Person of the Year for 2009 by the Women’s Press Club of New York State.

Karen is a graduate of the State University of New York at Geneseo.

Ways to Connect

-JvL- / Flickr

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said he still needs to consult with the other legislative leaders before he can set a date to vote on a replacement for former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to serve out the remainder of the term, which ends Dec. 31.

Heastie was noncommittal about when the Legislature will appoint a successor to Schneiderman.

“When we come back on Tuesday, we’ll talk to the members and see what they want to do,” Heastie said.

Cynthia for New York

When Democratic candidate for governor Cynthia Nixon called for a state Moreland Act Commission to investigate government corruption Tuesday, she was not the first to do so.

Her opponent, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, requested and created a Moreland Commission several years ago to look at potential illegal activities in state government, but he disbanded it as part of a budget deal several months later.

NYS Attorney General's Office / Flickr

The state Legislature began interviewing candidates to replace Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned over a domestic violence scandal.

Up first was the current acting attorney general, Barbara Underwood, who is the favorite to win the appointment.

“I think it’s an understatement to say that none of us expected to be sitting here today for this purpose,” Underwood told senators and Assembly members gathered Tuesday at a meeting room in the state Capitol complex. 

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

The New York State Assembly is set to interview potential replacements Tuesday for former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned May 8 in a domestic violence scandal. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is also trying to put his stamp on the selection process.

The initial list of 16 names is dwindling over fears that being viewed as the insider candidate might hurt their chances to win voters in a primary or general election later on this year.

Nassau County District Attorney's Office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that he’s appointed Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas as a special prosecutor to look into the domestic violence accusations against disgraced former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Singas, who formerly ran a special prosecutorial unit for women who are victims of violence, said she’ll leave “no stone unturned” in her investigation of the allegations against the former attorney general detailed in the New Yorker magazine, which include alleged hitting, slapping and choking of four women.

New York State Attorney General's Office

Disgraced former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was known as a longtime champion of women’s rights. That’s why leaders of women’s groups are still trying to make sense of the allegations that he was a serial domestic violence abuser.

New York State Attorney General's Office / Flickr

State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced plans for an open interview process for the legislature to appoint a new state attorney general, now that Eric Schneiderman has resigned over domestic violence allegations. 

Heastie says public interviews of candidates to fill the vacant attorney general’s seat will take place May 15 and 16, and are open to anyone who submits a resume and cover letter by the end of the day on Friday.

Heastie said the process could also help clarify viable candidates before the state party conventions happen on May 22.

WRVO News File Photo

Solicitor General Barbara Underwood became acting attorney general on Tuesday, taking over for the disgraced Eric Schneiderman, who resigned after a New Yorker article detailed four women who accused him of numerous instances of physical violence.

James Tedisco / Twitter

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers is pushing for an anti-bullying measure that would require schools to tell parents when their child is being bullied, or if their son or daughter is behaving like a bully toward others.

The measure, Jacobe’s law, is named after Jacobe Taras, a 13-year-old from the North Country town of Fort Edward who committed suicide in 2015 after he was bullied at school.

His father, Richard Taras, said Jacobe often stuck up for other children who were bullied, and as a result, he was the target of bullying himself.

Marco Varisco / Flickr

Update 6:25 a.m Friday

Democratic candidate Cynthia Nixon announced Friday morning that she would release her 2017 federal and state tax returns later in the day Friday. 

Original story

Marc Molinaro, the presumptive Republican candidate for governor, released his tax returns for 2017, but his opponent, incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo, raised the stakes, saying his GOP challenger should release 10 years of tax returns.

timlewisnm / Flickr

Teachers wouldn’t be evaluated based on their students’ standardized test scores any longer under a measure approved by the New York State Assembly.

It’s a reversal of a controversial policy that helped lead to a widespread boycott of the third- through eighth-grade tests associated with the former Common Core program.

But the measure faces an uncertain future in the state Senate.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation Tuesday that would temporarily take away the guns of people accused of domestic violence. 

Cuomo organized a signing ceremony that included a student from the Parkland, Florida, school where the Feb. 14 mass shooting occurred, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

The governor said taking guns away from domestic violence offenders helps to diffuse potentially deadly situations.

“Common sense, if you have domestic violence perpetrators or you have a person with an order of protection, take away the guns,” Cuomo said to applause.  

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

The newly reunited Senate Democrats held their first press conference, where they focused on what they said was their No. 1 priority — a package of bills making it easier to vote.

Senate Democrats conducted a survey of eligible voters in New York on their voting patterns. Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said it confirms what she already knew: New York’s voter participation rate is abysmal. The state ranks 41st of all 50 states in the 2016 elections, with a voting rate of 57 percent.

stgermh / Flickr

Andrew Cuomo has two main challengers in the governor’s race: Cynthia Nixon on the left and Marc Molinaro on the right. Surprisingly, the two agree on a number of key items as they make their case against the incumbent governor, including a laser-like focus on Cuomo’s perceived weaknesses.

LtGovHochulNY / Flickr (File Photo)

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul says she plans to stay in the race for re-election alongside Gov. Andrew Cuomo, despite remarks by the governor that Hochul might prefer to run for Congress instead.

Cuomo has said he’d support Hochul if she wanted to run for her previous seat in Congress, which is now held by western New York Republican Congressman Chris Collins.

But Hochul has made it clear that she does not want to run for that seat.

stgermh / Flickr

Challengers to Gov. Andrew Cuomo were on the campaign trail Thursday, as the governor announced a massive new anti-poverty program in Brooklyn.

Democratic candidate Cynthia Nixon visited the Finger Lakes to voice her opposition to a controversial proposed liquefied natural gas plant on Seneca Lake. The gas company Crestwood wants to store liquid propane gas in caverns created from salt mining along Seneca Lake. They are awaiting a decision from Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

-JvL- / Flickr

The New York state Senate met for the first time since two Democrats were successful in special elections held on Tuesday. Though the Senate now has 32 Democrats, the number required to form a majority, it was back to business as usual with the GOP in charge.

Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) is the lone Democrat remaining with the Republican caucus, and giving the GOP the one seat needed to keep the majority in the chamber.

Two feuding factions of mainstream and independent Democrats already reunited on April 5.

New York State Senate

Democrats won two special elections for New York state Senate in the Bronx and Westchester County Tuesday, which will give them a numerical majority in the Senate, but Republicans will still control the chamber thanks to a lone Democratic Senator who will continue to caucus with the GOP.

Even before the results of Tuesday’s election were decided, Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) said in a statement that, with only 25 days remaining in this year’s legislative session, he wants to do what’s best for his constituents.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed a bill to ban plastic grocery bags in New York, but not everyone is praising him for it.

Cuomo’s plan would prohibit all single-use plastic carryout bags at any point of sale. But Peter Iwanowicz with Environmental Advocates says there are too many exceptions in the bill.

“In fact they’ve included a pretty significant loophole. By allowing retailers to claim their bags are recyclable or reusable that would really nullify their effectiveness.”

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Two of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s political opponents were at an Earth Day rally on climate change attended by hundreds at the state Capitol Monday, where they said the governor’s energy policies are far from adequate.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave a speech at the annual meeting of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., where he offered remedies to fix the nation’s Democratic Party.

Cuomo railed against President Donald Trump and his administration, saying they are “anti-American” and opposed to everything that King preached about. But he said the Democratic Party got it wrong in 2016.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

The Working Families Party split up over the weekend, with some of the last remaining major unions leaving the group. The progressive political party announced it is backing Cynthia Nixon for governor, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo withdrew from consideration, saying he’s sticking with the major unions, for now.

The choice seems a safe bet for the incumbent governor.

New York State Senate

Monday marked the first day that the former breakaway Democrats in the New York State Senate were working with the mainstream Democrats after they agreed to reunify earlier this month.

Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said so far, it’s all proceeding smoothly, but she dampened expectations that major new legislation would get done before the session ends in June.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Actor and education advocate Cynthia Nixon won the endorsement of the minor party Working Families Party at a meeting in Albany Saturday. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is running in a Democratic primary against Nixon, dropped out of contention for the party’s nomination Friday night, after delegates were leaning toward Nixon.

“I am so proud to accept the endorsement of the Working Families Party,” Nixon told the enthusiastic crowd of progressive and activist groups.

Nixon for Governor

Democratic candidate for governor Cynthia Nixon has outlined her plans for legalizing marijuana in New York in a video, saying the state lags far behind some other states. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he’s studying the issue.

Nixon, who is challenging Cuomo in a Democratic primary, said New York should follow the lead of eight other states and end a “key front” in what she called the “racist” war on drugs.

Cynthia for New York

The political activist group Citizen Action has endorsed Cynthia Nixon, a Democratic primary candidate for governor. It’s the second grass-roots organization to endorse the New York City actor in two days.

On Monday, the New York City-based progressive group New York Communities for Change, which advocates for tenants’ rights and affordable housing, endorsed Nixon, saying that Gov. Andrew Cuomo “caters” too much to the real estate industry.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News File Photo

Cynthia Nixon spent Thursday traveling the New York State Thruway from Syracuse to Rochester as part of her upstate campaign swing. In between stops, the actor and underdog candidate talked about how Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 presidential race helped inspire her to run for governor, and why she thinks Andrew Cuomo is not doing enough to help the state.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Two warring factions of Democrats in the state Senate are rejoining forces as pressure has mounted from the party’s left-leaning base for a reunification.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, seeking a third term in office, is facing challenges both from the left of his party and from a new Republican candidate. But the two candidates, Cynthia Nixon and Marc Molinaro, share a common theme — they say they are nicer than Cuomo.

Actor and progressive Democratic candidate Cynthia Nixon said Cuomo is more than simply a hard-charging type of politician.

“We’ve all seen it,” Nixon said in an appearance in Albany on March 26. “Andrew the bully. He bullies other elected officials. He bullies anyone who criticizes him.”

Molinaro for Governor / Facebook

Another candidate has announced he will challenge Andrew Cuomo for governor. This time, it’s Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, a Republican who offered a political indictment of Cuomo’s practices and temperament in office.

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