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.

Pages

6:48am

Thu May 22, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo chooses Hochul as running mate, still faces potential trouble from the left

Kathy Hochul/Facebook

Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed his choice for lieutenant governor via a video address to delegates at the state Democratic Party convention on Long Island. The announcement of former western New York Rep. Kathy Hochul comes at the same time a new poll shows Cuomo continuing to face a threat from some in the left wing of his party.

Cuomo will not actually attend the convention until the day of his own nomination, but he did record a message announcing his choice of Hochul as his running mate.

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7:28am

Wed May 21, 2014
Performing Arts and Culture

New York Democratic Convention to nominate incumbents, announce Lt. Gov. candidate

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be nominated to run for a second term as governor Thursday.

Before the happens, two other incumbents will be endorsed for a second full term; State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The only surprise expected at the convention is the announcement of Cuomo's running mate. Several names have been mentioned to replace Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, who has opted not to seek a second term.

The governor and his aides have been keeping that name close to the vest. They're expected to reveal their choice later Wednesday.

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7:18am

Fri May 16, 2014
Politics and Government

Skelos says no contradictions with candidate using public campaign finance

The leader of the state Senate Republicans offered some hope that New York’s public campaign finance system could be expanded before the session is over.  

Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos says talks are ongoing about expanding public campaign finance to more statewide races in New York. Skelos, who’s said a plan pushed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo would be a waste of the taxpayers’ money, says he’s open to other means of funding, like a voluntary tax form check off.

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6:58am

Fri May 16, 2014
Politics and Government

Astorino accepts GOP nomination for governor, Moss gets lieutenant governor nod

GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino delivers his acceptance speech.
Matt Ryan, New York Now

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino accepted the Republican nomination for governor at the state party convention in Westchester, saying Gov. Andrew Cuomo hasn’t lived up to his promises to improve the state.

Astorino painted a grim picture of the state, saying New York is 50th out of the 50 states in high taxes, economic outlook, and corruption. And he blames it all on bad government.

“What have our politicians done? They’ve nearly ruined a once great state,” Astorino said. “The statistics scream incompetence.”

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3:43pm

Thu May 15, 2014
Politics

Astorino claims Cuomo aide made him sit in the back during president's speech

GOP nominee for governor Rob Astorino speaks to reporters on the first night of the Republican convention in Westchester
Karen DeWitt/WRVO News

The Republican candidate for governor, Rob Astorino, claims an aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo made him sit in the back during President Barack Obama’s visit to New York City's Tappan Zee Bridge Wednesday, a charge Cuomo’s spokesman denies.

President Obama spoke near the bridge in Westchester County on the opening day of the state Republican Party convention, held just a few miles away nearby.

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who is also the GOP nominee for governor, attended the event, along with his opponent, incumbent Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

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7:13am

Thu May 15, 2014
Politics and Government

State GOP selects candidates for comptroller and attorney general

State Republicans have picked their candidate for comptroller, Onondaga County Comptroller Robert Antonacci. He will be the first statewide candidate in New York to rely on public financing to pay for his campaign.

Antonacci has been comptroller for Onondaga County, which includes Syracuse, since 2007, and says he would use his skills as a certified public accountant and attorney to scrutinize state spending by the governor and the legislature, and speak out when he sees waste.

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6:17am

Wed May 14, 2014
Politics

GOP lieutenant governor choice is SAFE Act opponent

Chemung County Sheriff Chris Moss
Chemung County

GOP candidate for governor Rob Astorino says his choice for a lieutenant governor running mate will be Chemung County Sheriff Chris Moss, an avid opponent of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s gun control laws.

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5:56am

Wed May 14, 2014
Politics

Astorino the underdog in the governor's race

Ellen Abbott WRVO file photo

Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive, faces a steep challenge. He’s 30 points behind the well-known incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the polls, and has only a fraction of Cuomo’s record $33 million campaign war chest.  

Astorino is a Republican in a state where Democrats now dominate and independents, not registered in either major party, are gaining ground. But the 47-year-old married father of three says he’s used to being a long shot.

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6:26am

Tue May 13, 2014
Politics

Major parties head to NYC suburbs for state conventions

The state’s Republican and Democratic Party conventions will be held over the next couple weeks. Both major parties have chosen to hold them in locations in the New York City suburbs.

The Republicans go first. They are meeting in Rye Brook in Westchester County May 14.  It makes sense for the GOP to hold their convention in a New York City suburb. There is still a small bastion of registered Republicans, and the Republican nominee for governor will be Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino.  

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6:52am

Mon May 12, 2014
Politics and Government

Public campaign finance showing signs of life

Gov. Cuomo is facing pressure to revive an issue that failed in state budget negotiations -- enacting a public campaign financing system for statewide elections.

In the final budget deal, Cuomo agreed with legislative leaders to a pared-down public campaign finance system that would apply only to the state comptroller’s race, and sunset after this year.

The governor was immediately condemned by government reform groups who said the pilot program was cynically designed to fail. But Cuomo defended the deal, saying advocates were looking at the glass half empty.

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7:06am

Fri May 9, 2014
Politics and Government

Duffy's decision not to seek re-election no surprise

Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy will continue to crisscross the state over the next few weeks arguing for his boss's mandate relief plan. He held a press conference with Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney and the mayor of Syracuse in January.
Ryan Delaney WRVO

New York Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy has informed Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a letter that he is not running for a second term, and Cuomo has accepted his resignation from the ticket. Duffy will serve out the rest of his term, which ends in December.

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6:15am

Thu May 8, 2014
Politics and Government

Reports say Duffy won't run for re-election

Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy speaks during an event in Onondaga County. (file photo)
Ryan Delaney WRVO

New York state Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy spoke at a police memorial service this week, in what may be one of his last official acts in his role before Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces a new running mate for the 2014 elections.

Several Rochester news outlets are reporting that Duffy has already submitted notice to Cuomo, and will not run on the ticket in this year's election. Duffy, who’s publicly been Cuomo’s biggest cheerleader, privately may have become disenchanted with the job as New York’s number two elected official.

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5:34am

Wed May 7, 2014
Politics and Government

Senate Democrats say more reasons than ever to adopt their reform bills

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Democratic colleagues and government reform advocates announce package of anti-corruption bills at the state Capitol.
Karen DeWitt/WRVO News

Democrats pressing for bills to reform the state’s campaign finance system say the U.S. Attorney’s investigations into a panel controlled by Gov. Andrew Cuomo might help spur action on their measures.

Democrats in the state Senate introduced a package of bills that they say would lessen special interest influences in politics and curb some on going abuses.

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7:01am

Tue May 6, 2014
Politics and Government

State Capitol celebrates Earth Day, activists call for environmental change

Katherine Murphy of Adirondack Wildlife, with a short eared owl, which is endangered in New York.
Karen Dewitt WRVO

Earth Day was celebrated at the state Capitol, with a tribute to the late Pete Seeger and a display of live owls.

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6:24am

Fri May 2, 2014
Politics and Government

New York's race for governor heats up

Zack Seward WXXI

The campaign for governor in New York is heating up. The state Democratic Party is running attack ads against the Republican candidate for governor, while the GOP candidate is fighting back in an internet video.

Just two weeks before the party conventions, Democrats are airing negative attack ads targeting incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Republican opponent, Rob Astorino.

“Rob Astorino, so far right he’s wrong for New York,” a narrator intones, over a background of ominous music.

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6:22am

Thu May 1, 2014
Politics and Government

Prospective casino operators attend mandatory question session

The New York State Gaming Commission's Ed Berns listens to questions from prospective casino operators.
Karen Dewitt WRVO

Prospective casino operators got a chance to ask the Cuomo administration questions about the process for choosing licensees for four upstate casinos. But they won’t get answers for several days.

The structure of the event was a bit awkward. Gambling conglomerates and other developers, who have all paid $1 million each for the privilege of being considered for a casino site, attended a mandatory session held by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York State Gaming Commission.

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5:51am

Thu May 1, 2014
Politics and Government

US Attorney supbeonas documents from state ethics panel

Published reports in the New York Post and New York Daily News say U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has subpoenaed records from a state ethics panel created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature.

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6:01am

Wed April 30, 2014
Politics and Government

Drug legalization and abuse topics in Albany

Brett Levin Flickr

It was a day of drug policy discussion in Albany, as lawmakers held a forum on legalizing marijuana, proposed bills to combat heroin addiction and overdoses and made progress toward a medical marijuana program.

Sponsors of a bill to legalize marijuana held a forum that in part focused on the nuts and bolts of how to implement a system that would permit sales and impose taxes on the drug.

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6:57am

Tue April 29, 2014
Politics and Government

Unfinished business in legislative session

-JvL- Flickr

There’s about two months left in the legislative session and a number of issues are still left on the agenda. But it’s uncertain how many of them will actually become law.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who’s failed to achieve a number of progressive items over the last two years, including public campaign finance reform and a Women’s Equality Act, told the Democratic Rural Conference that he’ll try to get them passed in the state legislature in the next eight weeks, before the session ends in June.

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5:49am

Mon April 28, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo defends progressive record

Ryan Delaney WRVO File

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is responding to a recent poll that finds support for a third party candidate from the left running against him for governor.  Cuomo says he has a progressive track record, and blames Republicans in the state Senate for stalling his agenda.

The Siena poll found that dissatisfaction among left-leaning Democrats in New York could cost Cuomo 15 points on election day, if the progressive  Working Families Party  put up its own candidate in the governor’s race.

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6:57am

Fri April 25, 2014
Politics and Government

Astorino undeterred by low poll numbers

Rob Astorino talks with Karen DeWitt about his plan for this fall's gubernatorial election.
Matt Ryan, New York Now

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino is 30 points behind incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the polls. But Astorino says he is undeterred, and has identified a path to victory in the fall elections.

Astorino, in an interview with New York State Public Radio & Television, says he’s already been through a race where he was behind by double digits, with a voter base that was two-thirds Democratic. And he says he won that contest, for Westchester County executive, and was recently reelected to a second term.

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6:44am

Thu April 24, 2014
Politics and Government

State conference focuses on future storm prep

An Oneida man's backyard shows damage to his property from flooding last June.
Gino Geruntino WRVO/File photo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo gathered local leaders from around the state to talk about reaction to past storms, and to plan for future ones.

Cuomo invited government leaders from Long Island, the North Country, central New York and other locales that experienced damage from Hurricanes Irene, Lee and Sandy. They gathered to praise their past efforts to react to the storms, and to report on the steps they are taking to prepare for future disastrous weather events.

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7:01am

Wed April 23, 2014
Politics and Government

Moreland fallout continues for Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (file photo)
Ryan Delaney WRVO

A new poll finds that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is still feeling the fallout from the demise of his Moreland Commission, a panel that was investigating corruption in the legislature. Cuomo disbanded the commission as part of the state budget deal.

The Siena poll finds Cuomo’s decision to end the Moreland Commission, in the midst of a corruption probe, doesn’t sit well with voters. Since the budget was settled, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has said he’ll continue with the investigations, and has asked for and received all of the paperwork on the probes.

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6:50am

Tue April 22, 2014
Politics and Government

New poll shows Cuomo vulnerable on the left

Zack Seward WXXI

A new poll finds Gov. Andrew Cuomo with a double digit lead against his Republican opponent for the fall elections. But the survey finds that ratio changes if a progressive third party candidate emerges.

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10:49pm

Mon April 21, 2014
Education

Study finds New Yorkers don't want school mergers

Thomas Favre-Bulle via Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature approved a plan in the state budget to encourage local governments and schools to merge and share services over the next few years, in an attempt to lower property taxes. But according to a study by school administrators, attempts at school district mergers in recent years have failed, partly because the public doesn’t want them.

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6:45am

Mon April 21, 2014
Environment

Documents show fracking health study is ongoing, group claims

Bosc d'Anjou Flickr

Documents obtained by a group opposed to hydrofracking show the Cuomo administration is conducting a thorough health study on the controversial natural gas drilling process. The Finger Lakes based organization is now wondering why the review has been conducted almost entirely in secret.

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7:43pm

Tue April 15, 2014
Environment

Groups call growing oil shipments in NY Cuomo's "Keystone" moment

Environmentalists protestor oil transportation through New York state in Albany Tuesday.
Karen DeWitt/WRVO News

National environmental groups are trying to focus the spotlight on Gov. Andrew Cuomo, over the issue of the growing international oil distribution center, located just blocks from the state Capitol, at the Port of Albany.   

A small band of demonstrators chanted and held signs Tuesday to protest a confluence of events that has turned upstate New York into a major center for oil distribution.

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5:31am

Tue April 15, 2014
Politics and Government

April 15 marks assault weapons registration deadline

Mike Saechang Flickr

April 15, besides being tax day, is the first day that owners of semi-automatic weapons will be required to register their guns with the state police. 

The head of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, a gun owners and pro-Second Amendment rights group, says his members don’t like the new requirement that they register any assault weapons they own under the state’s gun control laws.  

Tom King says while he’s not advising gun owners about whether or not they should register, he says those that want to comply are finding the new rules hard to navigate.

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7:13am

Thu April 10, 2014
Politics

New York State Gaming Commission hears testimony on problem gambling

Viri G Flickr

The New York State Gaming Commission is holding hearings on the issue of gambling addiction. It’s part of a process that will allow the building of up to seven new casino gambling resorts in the state over the next several years.

Among those testifying was James Maney, the executive director of the New York Council on Problem Gambling.

Maney, who’s organization is neither for or against gambling, says there’s no doubt the new casinos will increase the number of problem gamblers in New York.   

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7:17am

Wed April 9, 2014
Politics and Government

Medical marijuana next big issue for state legislature after lengthy spring break

Now that the state budget is done, the focus at the Capitol is shifting to other priorities, including whether to allow medical marijuana. Advocates came to the Capitol to lobby lawmakers, but the bill is getting bogged down over political skirmishes.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver caused a bit of a stir when he seemed to say that a bill to legalize medical marijuana might be dead for the year, saying he does not think it has a future in the 2014 session.

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