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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Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his running mate Kathy Hochul beat off a challenge from two law school professors in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. But, challenger Zephyr Teachout won over one-third of the vote, opening  a potential weakness for the incumbent governor among progressive voters.

MemphisCVB / Flickr

Democratic candidates for governor and lieutenant governor cast their ballots Tuesday, and urged others to vote as well.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is expected to win the primary, cast his ballot near his home in Westchester.

“I encourage people to vote,” Cuomo said. “You have no right to complain about who is in the office if you don’t actually exercise the franchise and go out and vote.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Flickr

Tuesday is primary day in New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo faces a challenge from Democrat Zephyr Teachout, which he is expected to easily win, but the governor could face a headache when it comes to the race for his running mate for lieutenant governor.

Cuomo, known as a clever strategist who carefully maps out his political future, did not anticipate a primary challenge from obscure Fordham Law School professor Zephyr Teachout.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is non-committal about whether he’ll debate his Democratic and Republican opponents in the fall elections.

Cuomo, who spoke after an early morning stop at the New York State Fair in Syracuse, would not say whether he’ll debate Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino, or Democratic primary opponent Zephyr Teachout.

“I’ll leave that to the campaigns to talk through,” Cuomo said.

The governor was asked what he meant by the statement.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The Republican challenger in the race for New York attorney general has begun airing TV ads, and is making an issue of incumbent Eric Schneiderman’s role in a controversial ethics commission.

John Cahill, the Republican candidate for attorney general, has made several stops around the state in recent days, focusing on the controversial Moreland Act Commission on corruption.

Cahill says there are unanswered questions about how deeply involved current Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was with the commission. The commissions’s actions are now under federal investigation.

Diana Robinson / Flickr

A Quinnipiac University poll shows the race for governor is virtually unchanged since the spring, with incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo far ahead of his Republican and Democratic challengers. 

The favorable ratings for Cuomo come after weeks of negative news stories about the governor’s alleged interference in an ethics panel and an ongoing federal investigation.

The Quinnipiac poll is the third in recent weeks that show the governor’s race in New York remains stagnant, with Cuomo ahead of Republican challenger Rob Astorino by nearly 25 percentage points.

unshackleupstate.com

An upstate pro business group is out with ratings for the Senate and Assembly, and finds, not surprisingly, that more liberal Democrats are at odds with the group’s agenda than conservative leaning Republicans. Unshackle Upstate says that could have implications for the group’s interests if Democrats take over the Senate in November.

Columbia City Blog / Flickr

Supporters of a November ballot amendment on redistricting say it will help prevent rampant partisan Gerrymandering when the next district lines are drawn in the Senate and the Assembly. The groups Citizens Union and League of Women Voters are making voters aware of the amendment and giving them reasons why voters should approve the measure.
 

Sean MacEntee / Flickr

New York voters will decide in November whether the state should borrow $2 billion for new technology, including iPads, in school classrooms. Teachers and school administrators who could benefit from the funds say they are supportive, but want to see more details.

The Bond Act, as it reads on the November ballot, would provide access to classroom technology and high-speed Internet connections, as well as offer funds to build more pre-kindergarten classrooms and replace the trailers that some overcrowded schools in New York City have been using to teach students.

timlewisnm / Flickr

New York’s school children made incremental progress in math scores, but no gains in English tests, during the second year of Common Core-related exams. Education officials say overall, only around one-third of students actually passed the tests.

In math tests administered to third through eighth graders, just 35.8 percent statewide were considered to meet or exceed the new Common Core standards.

Karen DeWitt

Government reform groups are split over whether an amendment on the November ballot to change the way legislative district lines are drawn is an improvement, or will only make gerrymandering worse.

On November 4, voters in New York will decide whether they want to amend the state’s constitution to change the way Senate and Assembly lines are drawn.

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

A member of a government reform group says it’s ok if Governor Cuomo uses his campaign coffers to finance this week’s trip to Israel if the visit is for political, rather than government purposes.

Blair Horner, with the New York Public Interest Research Group, says it’s preferable for Governor Cuomo to use funds from his $35 million dollar campaign fund to pay for his visit to Israel than for state taxpayers to foot the bill.  Horner says by using the campaign money, Cuomo is also signaling that the trip is more of a political event than official government business.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration and the legislature are spending around $1.3 million this year in payments to private law firms, and the public is paying for it, says a fiscally conservative study center.

The Empire Center analyzed reports filed on line by the legislature, and found that the state Assembly paid over $650,000 to outside attorneys, while the state Senate gave a private law firm over $400,000 between October of 2013 and March of 2014.

Karen DeWitt/WRVO News

Education funding advocates say they have a use for the recently announced $4.2 billion state surplus. They say schools in New York, particularly the state’s poorest schools, could really use the money.

The Alliance for Quality Education’s Billy Easton says New York has fallen far behind in carrying out an order issued eight years ago form the state’s highest court saying schools, particularly the poorest districts,  deserve billions of dollars more in state funding each year.

“This is money that is due to schools that has never been paid,” Easton said.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

The only statewide candidate participating in the pilot public campaign finance program says it’s been slow going. But Republican comptroller candidate Bob Antonacci expects to collect enough individual donors to qualify for the state's matching funds.

Antonacci has to convince 2,000 people to donate small amounts of money to his campaign by September 10, and raise $200,000 from them, in order to qualify for a grant that will give him six times the amount of money he raises by that date.

“It has been tedious at times,” Antonacci admits. “It’s been a lot of work.”

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

For the first time in several years, New York state has a surplus of between $3 billion and $4 billion. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he’s still looking at options on how best to use it.

The state has recently been the beneficiary of a windfall from major lawsuit settlements with several banks and insurance companies. After years of running a debt or breaking even, Cuomo says New York now has more than $4 billion additional dollars.

The governor says he’s still thinking about the best use for the money.

Zack Seward / WXXI

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is using money from his $35 million campaign war chest to pay for a criminal defense lawyer in a federal probe of his office. Critics say while it’s legal to do so, it’s not an appropriate use of campaign money.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Details about alleged interference in an ethics probe by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s aides are leaking out daily, and most newspapers have run critical editorials. But it remains to be seen how deeply the controversy will affect the race for governor, where Cuomo is still the front runner by a wide margin.  

There’s been a steady drip of bad news for the governor and his administration since a New York Times in depth story about potential interference by top Cuomo aides in a corruption commission investigation

teachoutwu.com

The challenger to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the state’s Democratic primary for governor, Zephyr Teachout, is facing a challenge of her own from the Cuomo campaign. Teachout will be asked in court to prove that she’s really been a resident of the state for the past five years.

MemphisCVB / Flickr

The New York State Board of Elections approved the language for a ballot amendment that would change the way redistricting is done in New York. But not everyone is happy with the wording, or the amendment.

The November ballot amendment would permit the Senate and the Assembly to appoint members to what the amendment describes as an “independent” commission to redraw legislative district lines every ten years, as required by the census.

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirms that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara sent a warning letter to the lawyer representing the now disbanded Moreland Act Commission on ethics, as first reported in The New York Times.  In the letter, The Times says, Bharara threatened to investigate the governor’s aides and maybe even Cuomo himself for “possible obstruction of justice or witness tampering.”

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s opponents in the November election race are stepping up accusations over the ethics commission scandal and citing sections of state law that they say might have been broken by the governor’s aides.

Lt. Gov. candidate Tim Wu, who along with Zephyr Teachout, is challenging Cuomo and Kathy Hochul in the state Democratic primary, teaches New York state criminal law at Columbia University.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

The little known and underfunded Republican challenger for New York governor has been getting a boost from incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s troubles over alleged interference in an ethics panel. Rob Astorino has been doing his best to keep the controversy, first reported in an in-depth story in the New York Times, alive.

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his first public appearance since a potentially damaging news story about allegations his staff tampered with an ethics probe, tried to change the subject by talking about economic development.  But the story continues to dog the governor.

Zack Seward / WXXI

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not held any public appearances since a potentially damaging New York Times story that reported that his top aide interfered in a corruption probe when it focused on Cuomo donors. But on Monday morning, the governor is scheduled to visit the University of Buffalo, where the press will try to ask him questions about the Moreland Act Commission and his office's involvement.

Cuomo’s political challengers leaped on The Times story, that alleges a top aide to Cuomo squelched subpoenas to the governor’s donors and associates.

Karen DeWitt/WRVO News (file photo)

The fallout continues over whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top aide interfered with an ethics commission probe, with some now saying that state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman could have done more to protect the integrity of the investigations.

Schneiderman’s opponent in the fall elections is one of those raising questions about whether the attorney general, who was key to the formation of the ethics commission, could have been more involved and done something to stop alleged interference in probes by Cuomo’s aides.

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

One of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’ s political opponents is calling on Cuomo to hold an explanatory press conference, and  another is demanding that the governor to resign after an in-depth account in The New York Times reports that the governor’s top staff repeatedly interfered in an ethics commission investigation.

Cuomo created the ethics commission under the state’s Moreland Act a little over a year ago amidst rampant corruption rampant in the legislature, that included a string of indictments, resignations and jailings of lawmakers.

Zack Seward / WXXI

A poll conducted fifteen weeks before Election Day shows incumbent New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is maintaining a wide lead over his nearest challenger.

According to a recent Siena Research Institute poll, Cuomo is 37 points ahead of Republican challenger Rob Astorino.  The Democrat also has a high favorability rating, while 60 percent of voters have never heard of Astorino.

Candidates’ financial statements were released earlier this month, and Cuomo reported having $35 million, compared to Astorino’s $2.4 million in the bank.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO/file photo

The president of the state’s teachers’ union says members are not yet ready to rescind a vote of no confidence in state Education Commissioner John King, despite improved relations in recent months.

New York State United Teachers President Karen Magee was elected in April amid deep dissatisfaction over education policy in New York.  Magee ousted a three-term incumbent, and teachers held a symbolic vote of no confidence in King, over what critics call a botched roll out of the new Common Core learning standards.

Kathy Hochul/Facebook

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s running mate, lieutenant governor candidate Kathy Hochul, is explaining why she now feels differently about undocumented immigrants. Hochul, the former Erie County clerk, once wanted to turn immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally over to federal authorities.

Hochul has been meeting privately with key Latino leaders since her nomination in May. She says it was a different time and place back in 2006, when she was Erie County clerk and opposed to then Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s plan to issue drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants.

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