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

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A new poll that finds Donald Trump badly trailing Hillary Clinton in the presidential race in New York could be good news for Democrats in the state Senate.

Trump’s supporters in New York had hoped that the state could be in play for the Queens native. But the latest poll from Siena College finds that Clinton, who has adopted New York as her home, is ahead of Trump by 30 points — 57 percent to 27 percent — in a two-way race.

New York Now

New York state’s education commissioner said she’s fighting a proposal by her predecessor, now the federal education secretary, to punish schools with a high opt-out rate from the standardized tests.

MaryEllen Elia said she and the New York State Board of Regents have made a number of changes in her first year on the job to fix the third- through eighth-grade tests, including signing on with a new testing company that will let teachers write more of the questions, shortening the exams and giving kids more time to complete them.


The New York State Senate is expected to soon announce a date for a hearing on how the Cuomo administration handled drinking water contamination in Hoosick Falls. It comes as new studies out this week show more harmful effects from exposure to the chemical PFOA, on mothers and their children.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not been getting along with other Democrats in the state this summer.

For some time, Cuomo has appeared to have a feud with the Democratic mayor of New York City, but in recent weeks, the governor has directed scathing comments toward state Assembly Democrats.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had harsh words for the state’s comptroller, a fellow Democrat, over questions about the value of the state’s economic development programs.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has conducted audits raising questions about the value of some of the programs, saying there’s not enough documentation in some cases that New Yorkers are getting their money’s worth.

Cuomo, speaking Tuesday in Buffalo, struck back when asked about DiNapoli and others who suggest the programs should be redesigned.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Tuesday's announcement that a new company has agreed to take over the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Oswego County -- and keep it running -- was cheered in central New York for the jobs and tax revenue it will keep in the region. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo says it is part of his goal for 50 percent of the state’s power to come from renewable energy by 2030.

-JvL- / Flickr

A commission is considering granting as much as a 47 percent pay raise for state lawmakers, and the proposal is generating some backlash, including from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The idea of raising state lawmakers pay by nearly 50 percent comes at a time when dozens of senators and assembly members have been indicted, arrested, and jailed for corruption, including the two former legislative leaders, who are both facing prison time.

timlewisnm / Flickr

Education groups, dismayed by the federal education secretary’s threat to punish schools in New York with high opt-out rates for standardized tests, say he’s re-igniting controversy that state education officials have been trying to calm for the past year.

Wallyg / Flickr

A routine oversight hearing by the state Assembly turned testy when the state’s economic development czar endured over two hours of questions about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s economic development programs, which are currently under federal investigation.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo got his moment on the convention stage Thursday night before Hillary Clinton’s speech.

Cuomo delivered his speech before the prime time program began, around 7:30 p.m., and he started the speech by mentioning his father, and Mario Cuomo’s famous 1984 Tale of Two Cities speech at the San Francisco convention 32 years ago.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

New York State Senate Democrats hope to take leadership of their house away from Republicans in the 2016 elections — and many believe the candidates at the top of the ticket will help them do that.

The leader of the Senate Democrats, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, is at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia to witness the historic nomination of the first female candidate for president in a major political party. She said she hopes to break some barriers of her own later this year by becoming the first woman, and female African-American, to be Senate majority leader.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it’s a “sign of respect” for New York state that he’s been asked to speak on the final evening of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

He said he plans to mention his father, Mario Cuomo, the former governor who gave the memorable “Tale of Two Cities” speech at the 1984 Democratic convention. Andrew Cuomo said it’s the first national convention that he’s attended without his father, who died on New Year’s Day 2015.

Cuomo said he plans to touch on the larger theme of the two conventions: fear versus hope.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo


Foreign trade deals are a contentious issue at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), weighed in Wednesday, saying he’s against the Trans-Pacific Partnership proposal, known as the TPP.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had a full schedule Tuesday at the Democratic National Convention, aimed at showcasing some of his strengths, including supporting LGBT rights and helping the homeless.

But first, he shared the stage with Hillary Clinton’s primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Cuomo began with a planned speech to the New York delegates attending the convention in Philadelphia, but he had to abbreviate it to leave time for the surprise guest to address the delegation of Clinton’s home state.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

It’s supposed to be Hillary Clinton’s convention, but the focus Monday was on her primary challenger, Bernie Sanders, and his delegates, who continue to stew over a WikiLeaks release of Democratic National Committee emails that showed favoritism to Clinton over Sanders.

In New York’s delegation, annoyed Sanders supporters attending the convention in Philadelphia struggled to even secure a room to meet in so they could discuss all that’s happened.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The resignation of Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz over the release of emails showing that staff favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders overshadowed other news at the beginning of the Democratic National Convention. 

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Now that the Republican National Convention is over, the next step for Republicans, after the Democrats are done with their convention, is to begin the presidential general election campaign. The head of Trump’s New York campaign say he expects the state to be in play.

Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino says even though New York has many more Democrats than Republicans, Trump wants to compete against Hillary Clinton in his home state.

“We’re going to win big in Long Island and in upstate,” Paladino said. “We’re going to get crossover like you’ve never seen before.”

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, in a speech to New York’s delegates at the Republican National Convention, assailed Hillary Clinton for her husband’s extramarital affairs when he was president in the 1990s, saying she tried to shut the women up.

Giuliani, who dropped out of a race to challenge Clinton for the 2000 Senate race in New York, which she ultimately won, focused on a topic that so far has been avoided even on the convention floor — whether Clinton was culpable in covering up her husband’s sexual dalliances.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

New York’s delegates have high hopes for their nominee Donald Trump’s speech tonight, but some also want him to tone down some of his rhetoric and act more presidential.

State GOP Chair Ed Cox said a “great acceptance speech” will help to unite the party and fire everyone up for November. He defined that as something more serious than the sometimes rambling addresses that are very popular at Trump rallies.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Wendy Long, the Republican candidate for Senate running against Sen. Charles Schumer, faces great odds in her campaign against the powerful and popular third-term senator. Long made her case when she addressed the New York delegation to the Republican National Convention Tuesday.

It’s the second time that Wendy Long is running for Senate. She lost to incumbent Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand four years ago, by 46 points, the largest margin of defeat for any statewide candidate in New York, ever.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

New York’s delegation at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland heard from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at their breakfast meeting Monday. Gingrich offered them a game plan for winning in New York state in November.

Former House Speaker, professor and now author of dystopic thrillers, Newt Gingrich spoke as an official Donald Trump surrogate. He offered the delegates what he called a game plan to win typically Democratic New York state away from Hillary Clinton in the presidential race. He says the political landscape is rapidly shifting, and New York City is key.

Karen DeWitt

The Republican National Convention begins in Cleveland Monday. New York state Republicans will hear from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, who are billed as official Trump-Pence surrogates, as well as CNBC contributor Larry Kudlow.

Republican State Party Chair Ed Cox says he doesn’t think the delegates need a lot of convincing, though he admits that many of them initially supported others in what was originally a 16-candidate race.

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has offered only lukewarm support in the past for his fellow Democrats in their quest to take over the state Senate, said this week that he would back Democratic candidates in Senate races. He also somewhat reluctantly offered support to his former primary rival, Zephyr Teachout, who is now running for Congress.

Cuomo, answering a question from reporters in the Bronx, gave his strongest statements to date in the 2016 election cycle to back Democratic candidates for the Senate.

Payne Horning / WRVO News File Photo

Supporters of the two outsider candidates in the presidential race are finding obstacles to attending the national conventions in Philadelphia and Cleveland, held during the next couple of weeks.

New York State Center for Rural Schools

While it’s summer vacation for school children, leaders of New York’s rural schools are worrying about the new school year, and say they are squeezed by a tax cap and other factors.

The legislature approved record funding for schools this year, but representatives of rural school districts, many with impoverished families and students, worry that if the economy turns, the funding will dry up. They say they are already strapped with a tax cap that this year amounts to a near zero percent increase, while costs are rising.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration is facing greater scrutiny over handling of the Hoosick Falls water crisis. In recent days a Congressional committee opened an inquiry, and both the state Assembly and Senate will hold hearings into the water contamination of the Rennselear County village.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr (File Photo)

One of the centerpieces of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s economic development plans has created just a small number of jobs so far, but the governor is urging patience.

Wallyg / Flickr

Some homeless advocates are dismayed by what they say is Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s failure at the end of the legislative session to follow through with promises to fund five years of new supportive housing and other services for the homeless. Their complaints come as the state comptroller recently issued a scathing report on the state of homeless shelters across New York.

Melinda Shelton / Flickr

It’s been 10 years since New York’s highest court ordered that more state money be paid to schools with the poorest children. But advocates say that since the 2006 ruling, many so-called high-need schools have fallen even further behind.

The Alliance for Quality Education looked at aid in the state budget allotted to 161 of the poorest schools among the more than 700 districts in New York.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying to focus on positive actions in his public events in recent days as a federal investigation into his administration’s economic development programs continues.