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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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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.  

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.

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.

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.

Karen DeWitt/WRVO News file photo

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

-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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.   

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.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

Gov. Andrew Cuomo hosted his second beer, wine, spirits, and now cider summit, to showcase one of the state’s few growth industries.

The owners of breweries, distilleries, wineries, and for the first time, cideries, gathered at the Capitol to share ideas about growing the industry. They also heard a pep talk by Cuomo, who says a few thousand new jobs have been created.

“We also can be a major facilitator,” Cuomo said. “A lot of your business is about promotion."

Thomas Favre-Bulle / via Flickr

There’s a big change in the New York State United Teachers union, as members elected new leadership after months of unrest. The state’s largest teachers union has a new president, Karen Magee, the first woman to run the organization.

The shakeup comes over concerns with the state’s flawed implementation of the new Common Core learning standards. Teachers are complaining that they were not adequately prepared to teach to the new standards, and that the test results should not be used to evaluate their performance.

The state’s comptroller says he won’t be participating in a new pilot public campaign finance program agreed to in the state budget, and government reform groups say they don’t blame him.

Saying he won’t be a “convenient sacrificial lamb,” state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says he won’t opt in to a test system for public campaign finance that applies only to his office, and would use money from the comptroller’s unclaimed funds to pay for it.  

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