The Politicker was a little startled this morning to find no one other than Carl Paladino hanging out in the lobby of the Rochester Convention Center as he made his way in to the New York State Republican Convention.
Mr. Paladino, after all, ran for governor in 2010 bashing the party establishment, including State Chairman Ed Cox.
Still, Mr. Paladino said he was there to cast his vote for Wendy Long, the conservative lawyer vying for a spot on the ballot today. He told us why he’s backing Ms. Long and shared his thoughts on the state of Newt Gingrich, his pick in the Republican presidential primary. Mr. Paladino also let us know he’d like to give Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos a piece of his mind.
Asked why he supports Ms. Long, Mr. Paladino responded, “The first thing I like about her is that [State Conservative Party Chairman] Mike Long likes her and speaks very highly of her.”
Mr. Long also provided key backing of Mr. Paladino’s candidacy.
“My own personal vetting of her was awesome. She is right on my issues. And I feel that she is right on my issues. And I feel that she is extremely articulate. She can debate Kirsten Gillibrand and knock her off her feet. And she is an anti-establishment person, as I am.”
He then reiterated a line we are hearing a lot by those who support Ms. Long.
“The Republicans are going to have to go the way the Conservatives have gone, or they have just wasted another opportunity.”
Mr. Paladino added that he attended the convention because, “I enjoy the fringes of politics. I am a more focused-issues type person. I have no interest in process. It drives me nuts.”
Mr. Paladino has been one of the most prominent backers in New York of Newt Gingrich’s candidacy, and rejected calls for him to drop out, saying it was only “the Obama press that is calling for Newt to get out.”
“The more the merrier on the conservative side until they get to the convention. He is denying votes that would otherwise go to Romney. How stupid is that. That is the liberal press, the complicit press. What paper are you with?”
The Politicker told him.
“Well, you know, you guys bounce around.”
Mr. Paladino also bashed Mr. Gingrich’s opponents. Mitt Romney, he said, “is plastic. He is an establishment cardboard puppet.”
Mr. Santorum, he said, wears “too much of the social issues on his sleeve.”
Mr. Paladino kept his strongest criticisms however for the New York Republicans, especially Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, the highest ranking Republican in the state.
“Here we worked so hard to get a Republican majority. What did we need it for? All they did was vote for the Democrats on everything.”
He talked Andrew Cuomo’s tax reform package, which he said was rushed and voted on before lawmakers knew what was in it, “And the stupid-ass Republicans give him the vote. They voted for him. C’mon. Dean Skelos is a sell-out and a piece of garbage.”
Mr. Paladino then started looking around the lobby and said, “Is Skelos here.”
The Politicker said he did not appear to be, but asked what Mr. Paladino would tell him if he were.
“I would tell him he’s an asshole.”
Mr. Paladino also knocked Mr. Cuomo, and said he had reneged on his pledges of transparency. He also criticized Mr. Cuomo for playing favorites with the press, and only granting interviewers to Fred Dicker of the New York Post.
Mr. Dicker once got into a famous confrontation with Mr. Paladino, and today Mr. Paladino said, “He set me up with that altercation. That was very clear. He showed up and stuck a microphone in my face. How would you like that?”
With our microphone in Mr. Paladino’s face, The Politicker took the hint, and let Mr. Paladino travel to the rest of the convention.