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

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. 

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

Business leaders, particularly those in upstate New York, say the recently concluded 2016 legislative session was the worst for small businesses in quite some time.

-JvL- / Flickr

What began in January as an ambitious reform package to address a wave of corruption at the Capitol, proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, dwindled to just two proposals by the time the session closed in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday morning. Cuomo had proposed a number of changes in January to react to a wave of corruption that led to the convictions of the two former leader of the legislature on felony corruption charges.

stgermh / Flickr

State lawmakers wrapped up the 2016 legislative session at around 5 a.m. Saturday morning, agreeing to take steps to cancel the pensions of convicted lawmakers in the future, legalizing daily fantasy sports and extending New York City’s mayoral control law for another year.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

The state legislature was closing in on an end-of-session deal that would strip convicted lawmakers of their pensions, extend mayoral control of New York City schools for one more year, and legalize daily fantasy sports gambling.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Hoosick Falls residents came to the Capitol on Wednesday to demand hearings on the water crisis that has revealed high levels of a toxic chemical in many people’s bloodstreams. They did not get hearings but did get a private meeting with a top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

With the legislative session down to the wire, groups for and against bills — including expansion of Uber ride services and ethics reform — came to the Capitol to make their voices heard.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

As part of the push to end the legislative session by Thursday, state lawmakers representing Hoosick Falls — where water has been contaminated with PFOA — want to extend the statute of limitations to bring lawsuits against polluters.

The bill would extend the current statute of limitations law to allow a three-year window between when a contaminated area is declared a Superfund site and when New Yorkers can file a lawsuit.

The Senate sponsor, Sen. Kathy Marchione, who represents Hoosick Falls, said it’s a top priority for her in the remaining days of the session.

stgermh / Flickr

There are only three more days left in the legislative session, and lawmakers are talking with Gov. Andrew Cuomo about a number of bills — but keeping details close to the vest.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The assemblyman who represents Hoosick Falls is calling for a federal investigation after revelations that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration knew about elevated levels of a toxin in the village’s water for a year and a half before residents were warned.

File Photo
SUNY Polytechnic

Until recently, Alain Kaloyeros, leader of the SUNY Polytechnic Institute, has been the darling of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration. But now, he’s one of the figures at the center of federal and state investigations into alleged pay-to-play schemes for economic development projects and is increasingly on the outs with the administration. 

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing a crackdown on the coordination of candidates for office and super PACs that are created to support their campaigns.

The super PACs, or independent expenditures, are permitted under the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Cuomo says while the ruling cannot be overturned right away without changes to the court, New York can act to make sure that super PACs really are independent. He says the groups have “become a mockery” and are used as a backdoor way around the state’s contribution limits.

stgermh / Flickr

Expectations for major ethics reform in the state legislature are low, even though both former leaders of the legislature are facing prison time for corruption. With just over a week to go before the session ends, only one measure — to take back the pensions of lawmakers who are convicted felons — seems to be in play.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News file photo

Two western New York lawmakers have asked State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to review Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic development projects.

The comptroller says an ongoing audit is already looking at some aspects of the increasingly controversial project and other Cuomo administration economic development initiatives that are currently under federal investigation.

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