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

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has just over $31 million in his campaign coffers, according to the most recent July filings.

That amount dwarfs the amount collected by his challengers, Democrat Cynthia Nixon and Republican Marc Molinaro, who each have less than a million dollars in their war chests.

Cuomo raised over $6 million from January to mid-July of this year, and spent nearly $5.4 million, most of that in the months since he gained Nixon, an actor and education activist, as a Democratic primary challenger.

WRVO News (file photo)

Opponents to incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the 2018 governor’s race are continuing to weigh in on the corruption convictions of the former head of Cuomo’s economic development programs. Independent candidate for governor and the former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says it’s not just Cuomo and his administration who are to blame.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

The second set of corruption convictions of former associates of Gov. Andrew Cuomo has renewed calls to reform the governor’s multibillion-dollar economic development program that was at the heart of the bribery and bid-rigging cases. But Cuomo said the problem is already fixed.

Primary challengers to a group of former breakaway Democrats in the state Senate have been gaining momentum lately, at least when it comes to campaign endorsements.

Many are encouraged by the June upset win of primary challenger, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to longtime Queens Congressman Joe Crowley.

The Democratic primary challenger to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Cynthia Nixon, has challenged several of the candidates challenging former members of the Senate Independent Democratic Conference.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is upping the stakes in his disagreement with Republicans on the state and federal levels over the right to choose abortion, now that President Donald Trump has announced his choice of conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Cuomo now says he’ll sue the federal government if the court overturns Roe v. Wade.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

For the second day in a row, Gov. Andrew Cuomo held rallies criticizing President Donald Trump’s choice for the U.S. Supreme Court and urging action on a measure that would protect the right to choose abortion in New York.

Cuomo, in Westchester and on Long Island, continued to urge the Republicans who lead the state Senate to return to the Capitol and vote on a measure that would codify the abortion rights in the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade and modernize New York’s 1970 laws that legalized abortion.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Hours before President Donald Trump announced his choice to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, Gov. Andrew Cuomo railed against the selection. He also signed an executive order to help protect the reproductive choice rights of New York’s women should a future court overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News (file photo)

The jury could begin deliberating as early as next Wednesday in the federal corruption trial of the former head of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s economic development programs.

Wallyg / Flickr

President Donald Trump is set to announce his choice for a new Supreme Court justice, which he’s said could eventually result in the reversal of the abortion rights case Roe v. Wade.

New York has had legal abortion since 1970, three years before the landmark ruling. But advocates and many Democratic politicians say it’s not enough, and it could become an issue in this year’s governor’s race.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Earlier this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a new system for state government to respond to requests made under the Freedom of Information law. It would allow citizens and members of the media seeking government documents to go to one online site to request information from multiple state agencies.

The new portal offers a form for document requests. The requests can be sent to up to three state agencies at one time. It also lists the contact information for staff members who handle FOIL requests at 59 state agencies and public authorities.

Karen DeWitt

New York’s union leaders are condemning the U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the right of a worker to not pay union dues. But a newly passed state law might mitigate the effects of Janus v. AFSCME.

The court, in a 5-4 ruling, agreed with Illinois state worker Mark Janus that his First Amendment rights were violated when he was compelled to have $45 a month deducted from his paycheck by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, to pay for collective bargaining even though Janus did not want to be part of the union.

stgermh / Flickr

 

The 2018 legislative session ended quietly, as Democrats and Republicans in the legislature failed to agree on major issues and exited the Capitol until next January. Although Gov. Cuomo is now leaving the door open to calling them back.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

Lawmakers busily passed bills on the final day of the 2018 legislative session, but as the final evening approached they were unable to reach agreement on many major issues.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

Former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner entered the race for governor this week, where she looks to face incumbent Andrew Cuomo. But Miner, a long time Democrat is not running on the Democratic Party line. Instead, she 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.

Molinaro for Governor / Facebook

Prosecutors and lawyers for the defense gave opening statements Monday in the bid rigging trial of a former associate of Gov. Cuomo and two upstate development firms, who are accused of fraudulently obtaining lucrative taxpayer-funded state contracts. 

Meanwhile, Cuomo’s political opponents seized on the trial as evidence of what they say is corruption in the incumbent governor’s administration, while reform groups pressed for changes in New York’s laws.

Rich Mitchell / Flickr

Prosecutors Monday will present the second of two corruption cases against former associates of Gov. Andrew Cuomo in federal district court in Manhattan.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

A Siena poll finds Gov.  Andrew Cuomo is securely ahead of his challengers, Democrat Cynthia Nixon and Republican Marc Molinaro, in his re-election bid.

Meanwhile, Cuomo is using some of his $30 million campaign war chest to promote an anti-gun violence measure.

The poll finds Cuomo ahead of Nixon by about 35 points, at 61 to 26 percent, among Democrats who say they are likely to vote in the November election.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the anti-sexual harassment policies enacted in the state budget are among the strongest in the nation, but his political rivals say the governor has not done enough to respond to allegations of sexual harassment in his own administration.

Cuomo, in his speech at last month’s state Democratic Party convention, contrasted New York’s newest policy to prevent sexual harassment to the lack of action in Washington, where he said “the silence is deafening.”

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Cuomo has begun a statewide tour to promote a bill to give teachers and school administrators the power to go to court and ask a judge to confiscate the guns of a student and their family, if they suspect the student might try to harm themselves or others.

A report from the state ethics commission clears Governor Cuomo’s former high level economic development official Sam Hoyt of sexual harassment charges, but the report leaves many unanswered questions.

Molinaro for Governor / Facebook

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.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News (file photo)

The business of the evenly divided New York State Senate remains stalled, as advocacy groups pressed for their bills to be acted on before the session ends in two weeks.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed an expansion to his Extreme Risk Protection Order bill that would give teachers the power to go to court to prevent a student’s access to guns.

Cuomo said the measure gives that power to teachers and school administrators who believe a student might use guns to be a danger to themselves or others.

“If a teacher believes there is a troubled student who might be dangerous, that teacher has the legal authority to go to a judge directly,” Cuomo said. 

New York State Senate

In a spirited floor fight in the state Senate, Democrats tried once again but failed to get a vote on an amendment on women’s reproductive health care.

The argument over Senate procedure led to accusations that some Republican senators were trying to “mansplain” the rules to the state’s female lieutenant governor.

New York Now

Democratic candidate for governor and actor Cynthia Nixon came to the Capitol to talk about the need for more education aid and what she says are Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s failings in that policy area. Meanwhile, Cuomo’s campaign said it’s Nixon who is being inconsistent.

-JvL- / Flickr

The New York State Senate is experiencing its worst gridlock in nine years, with the two major factions tied at 31 members each. No legislation is moving through the chamber, but there’s lots of finger-pointing.

Tempers flared on the Senate floor as Democrat Michael Gianaris blamed the GOP for the stalemate.

“They don’t have the votes to pass a single thing in this chamber,” Gianaris shouted.

After two days of infighting, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan was frustrated.

“We saw the Democrats paying shameless games with people’s lives,” he said.

Wallyg / via Flickr

The New York legislative session is due to end in three weeks, but some state lawmakers are talking about leaving a week early because they believe they will accomplish so little in that time. 

Political gridlock in the state Senate and worsening relations between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and majority-party Senate Republicans have led some lawmakers to say that perhaps they should end the session early.

But Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said his Democratic members are staying until at least June 20, the scheduled end of the session.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Democrats and Republicans, meeting this week at their state conventions, made their choices to fill the open seat for state attorney general after the resignation of Eric Schneiderman over a domestic violence scandal.

Democrats chose New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, who said she will continue Schneiderman’s work pursuing cases to protect immigrants, consumer rights and women’s rights against threats by the federal government.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo called in Democratic Party stalwarts Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden to endorse him as he received the overwhelming support of delegates Thursday at the state Democratic Convention on Long Island.

Molinaro for Governor / Facebook

Republicans meeting at the state convention in New York City nominated Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro as their candidate for governor Wednesday and offered a scathing critique of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is seeking a third term in office.

Molinaro presented himself as a person who overcame the odds. He grew up in a family that relied on food stamps, became mayor of his hometown of Tivoli at 19, and now runs one of the state’s more populous counties.

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