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.

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-JvL- / Flickr

All three propositions on the New York state ballot passed Tuesday. Supporters of the measure to change the redistricting process say the vote shows New Yorkers are hungry for reform.

Voters approved a change in the state’s constitution that will require the legislature to appoint a commission to redraw state Senate, Assembly and congressional district lines after the 2020 census.

Dick Dadey, with Citizens Union, a group that supported the amendment, says the 57 percent of voters who said yes shows that the public craves reform of the present system.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, won another four years in office, but the Republicans recaptured the state Senate. That could lead to Washington-style gridlock on a number of issues that Cuomo pushed for during the campaign.

Cuomo, under pressure from the left of his party, pressed for a progressive agenda in the final weeks of his campaign, including an abortion rights provision in a women’s equality package, further increases in the state’s minimum wage and public financing of political campaigns. On election night, Cuomo promised he would deliver on those items.

Karen DeWitt/WRVO News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo won re-election to a second term easily beating his nearest opponent, Republican Rob Astorino.

Cuomo, to chants of “four more years,” promised to deliver in his next term on a mostly progressive agenda, including enacting a number of items that were stalled in the state Senate over the past couple of years, like an abortion rights provision as part of a women’s rights agenda and public financing of political campaigns.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

If Gov. Andrew Cuomo wins reelection, he’s likely to continue having tensions with the left-leaning members of his party.

Cuomo was endorsed by the progressive Working Families Party after he promised to work for a Democratic state Senate, among other things. But in recent weeks the alliance has frayed, with Cuomo pushing voters to cast ballots on a new line he created called the Women’s Equality Party, known on the ballot as WEP, instead of the Working Families Party line.

governorandrewcuomo and Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and his Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, spent Monday delivering their final messages to voters in a race where the Democratic incumbent governor is favored to win, but by how much?

The governor, in his final pitch to voters, defined Astorino as an ultra-conservative who he says is against many social issues that Democrats are for, including a woman’s right to choose abortion.

“When they try to sell their hate and division, our message is very simple,” Cuomo said. “That hate and venom won’t sell in New York.”

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

There are three amendments on Tuesday’s ballot for New Yorkers to decide, including changing redistricting processes and whether to borrow $2 billion for school technology.   

Proposal 1 changes the way redistricting is conducted in New York, and reform groups are split over whether it’s a good idea or not.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Green Party candidate for governor Howie Hawkins is poised to do better than in the past, and possibly better than the left-leaning candidate has ever done in New York.

Hawkins, who’s been running as high as 14 percent in polls in some regions of the state, says New Yorkers on the left are increasingly disenchanted with Cuomo.

The Green Party candidate cites Cuomo’s budget cuts, enacting lowered pension benefits for new state workers and refusal, so far, to ban hydrofracking.

“He’s my best campaign worker, he’s pushing people toward me,” Hawkins said of Cuomo.

governorandrewcuomo and Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Election Day is Tuesday and the two major party candidates for governor held get out the vote rallies across the state over the weekend, as the contest comes down to whether supporters will turn out at the polls.

Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo, with a large lead in the polls, has nevertheless been pulling out all the stops to try to win over more voters.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

An experimental public campaign finance system for the state comptroller’s race has fizzled, after the lone candidate who applied for the program failed to meet the minimum threshold to obtain public monies.

The pilot public campaign financing program was limited to just the state comptroller’s race as part of a state budget deal.

It was widely condemned at the time by reform groups as fatally flawed. Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group called it cynical.

citizenactionny / via Flickr

The race for attorney general is the closest of all the statewide contests. Democrat Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says he wants another four years to continue what he says have been numerous successes, while his Republican opponent, John Cahill, says the incumbent has not been aggressive enough and is too cozy with the political establishment in Albany.  

Katie Keier / Flickr

The Nov. 4 ballot includes an amendment to borrow $2 billion to buy new technology for school children, like iPads and other tablets. Fiscal watchdogs are against it and the reaction of the education community has been lukewarm. But with one week left to go before Election Day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who came up with idea, has finally started to push for it.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended his decision to quarantine travelers and health care workers returning from West Africa through New York City airports if they’ve been in contact with Ebola patients.

Cuomo has faced intense criticism since the policy was announced over the weekend, but says he’s doing what he thinks is necessary to keep the public calm and safe.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Four of the candidates running for New York state governor will be participating in a debate shown on public television and heard on public radio.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Republican Rob Astorino, Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins and the Libertarian Party’s Michael McDermott will appear together in an hour long debate, the only televised contest of the 2014 governor’s race.

GOP challenger Astorino had wanted a chance for the two major party candidates to hold additional debates on TV. Astorino spoke before the debate schedule was settled.

New York State Board of Elections

Next month voters will decide whether they want to change the way redistricting is done in New York state by voting on a ballet amendment that would change the state’s constitution. But there are different opinions over whether the amendment actually gets rid of gerrymandering or not.

Brad Flickinger / Flickr

New York's November ballot includes a proposal for the state to borrow $2 billion to spend on technology, like computer tablets, for school children. But a fiscal watchdog group says it’s not a good way to finance the purchase of iPads.

The bond act would give New York state permission to borrow money primarily to invest in new technology for students in elementary and secondary schools. It would also include money for building more classrooms for expanded pre-kindergarten.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

In the final weeks before elections, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been promoting his memoir and announced travel plans to Puerto Rico. One thing he hasn’t been doing is running a typical campaign, and he’s said little about what he’ll do in the next four years.

Cuomo, who holds a double-digit lead over Republican candidate Rob Astorino, has more than $30 million in the bank. He has employed a rose garden strategy for much of the political season, and seldom holds campaign events.

He says he's simply letting his job speak for itself.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

There are no known cases of Ebola in New York, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state officials are making preparations in case one occurs and have identified eight hospitals, including Upstate Medical University Hospital in Syracuse, as Ebola care centers.

Cuomo says the eight hospitals around the state have been identified as Ebola treatment centers, and personnel at all 200 of the state’s hospitals will be trained how to respond if a person with Ebola walks into their emergency room.

Greg Cotterill / WEOS Geneva

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is making women’s rights a pillar of his campaign and is focusing on an abortion rights provision. The issue serves multiple purposes for the governor.

Twice now, Cuomo has boarded a bus with his running mate Kathy Hochul, and several other leading female politicians, and rode to rallies for women's equality upstate and in New York City and Long Island.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he plans to visit Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic before Election Day.

Cuomo, speaking after marching in the Columbus Day parade, says he wants to make a trip to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic in the next couple of weeks.

“I’d like to get there before Election Day,” Cuomo said. “As a sign of respect to those two communities that I’ve worked with for a very long time.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Gov. Andrew Cuomo made some of his most extensive comments on the controversial topic of hydrofracking to date.

For the past two years, ever since the governor asked his health department to conduct a health review, Cuomo has had little to say about the review, or even what was being studied. He would only say that the work was continuing.

Cuomo now says it is a challenge for his administration to hurry a decision, because there is new and often conflicting evidence emerging every day.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been endorsed by the state’s largest business lobby for his reelection bid. The New York State Business Council made the announcement Wednesday at the Plug Power energy manufacturing company near Albany.

Business Council President Heather Briccetti says her group is endorsing Cuomo over his GOP challenger Rob Astorino because of the governor’s record on achieving four on-time budgets, enacting business tax cuts and holding the increase in state spending and property taxes to two percent each year. She also praised Cuomo’s bi-partisan governing style.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO file photo

The topic of preventing the Ebola virus in New York state became part of the governor’s race, when the Republican candidate proposed that flights be banned from countries with Ebola outbreaks.

Saying we should “err on the side of caution,” GOP candidate for governor Rob Astorino is calling for a ban on all flights from Ebola stricken countries in Africa to New York’s airports. He says the Ebola case in Texas, where the victim allegedly did not tell authorities that he had been in contact with someone with the disease, shows that the screening process is not adequate.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO file photo

New York state has received a multi billion dollar windfall from bank settlements this year, but a new report from the state comptroller shows the settlement took a bite out of Wall Street profits in 2014, which could have repercussions for the state budget in the future.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli reports Wall Street profits are down by 13 percent so far in 2014, compared to the previous year, 2013, when profits had already shrunk by 30 percent.

“Certainly we’re seeing profits, but down from what we saw last year,” DiNapoli said.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, his democratic running mate, former Rep. Kathy Hochul, and other women’s rights advocates spoke to a cheering crowd of union members and local elected officials as part of an upstate bus tour to promote a 10-point women’s rights plan.

Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act failed in the state Senate, when neither party could muster enough votes for an abortion rights provision. Now Cuomo and Hochul are making it a campaign issue.

Matt Ryan, New York Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has forged his public image as a bipartisan governor, working with both Democrats and Republicans. But the governor has also promised a left-leaning minor party that he would help shift control of the state Senate away from the GOP, and help Democrats regain control of the chamber. The governor has been walking a fine line between the two parties ever since.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a rare appearance before the State University of New York Board of Trustees to urge them to pass a system-wide set of policies on how to respond to sexual assault and rape on campuses.

Cuomo convinced the board to adopt the new policy that helps prevent sexual assault. It includes a uniform definition of what it means to consent to sexual activity, amnesty for students who report an assault or rape, and a new sexual assault victims’ bill of rights.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has accepted two debate offers from media outlets, but neither format includes a one-on-one televised contest between the incumbent Democrat and his Republican opponent. GOP candidate Rob Astorino is objecting.

One of the debates would take place in Buffalo, sponsored by the Buffalo News, and public television and radio stations WNED and WBFO. It would include Cuomo, Astorino, the Green Party’s Howie Hawkins and Libertarian candidate Michael McDermott.

Karen Dewitt

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is reaching out to moderate Republicans to try to win over their vote in next month’s elections, and his efforts have been bolstered by a new ad featuring Larry Rockefeller.

Rockefeller, the nephew of former Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, says in the spot that GOP candidate Rob Astorino is too conservative for New York, and that he favors the mainstream Cuomo in the election.

“I’m a lifelong Republican," says Rockefeller in the ad. “But I cannot support the ultra-conservative Rob Astorino.”

Brian Turner / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has until the end of this week to fill a vacancy on the state’s highest court. His choices include the reappointment of a Republican woman judge who currently holds the seat, and several Democratic alternatives.

Judge Victoria Graffeo’s term on the New York State Court of Appeals ends later this year. Under the rules Cuomo could reappoint her, but she would only be able to serve out part of the fourteen year term. Graffeo is now 62 years old, and the mandatory retirement age for state judges is 70. Graffeo is also a Republican, and Cuomo is a Democrat.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino is far behind in the polls and in fundraising, compared to incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo. But Astorino is making the most of his campaign and is quick to improvise or bend a situation to his advantage. He also maintains that he expects to win.

Since last winter, Astorino, who currently serves as Westchester County executive, has been determinedly traveling the state and expounding on a core message that he lays out in an introductory video.

“As a state, are we winning or are we losing?” Astorino asks.

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