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Upstate Upstart Looks to Court Local GOPers

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He comes from a goat meat farm in East Fishkill, opposes the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) ruling that would bring billions of dollars to city schools, and thinks drug dealers should be locked up for good. But gubernatorial candidate Pat Manning was greeted with open arms in Brooklyn Wednesday night as he spoke about his qualifications for governor at a meeting of the Brownstone Republican Club. The club, which formed in 1994 and promotes political and community activism in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn Heights, Red Hook, Cobble Hill, DUMBO, Concord Village, Gowanus and Park Slope, invited Manning for discussion, although it is unlikely to endorse any candidate before the September primary. As a real estate broker, businessman, and State Assembly member representing Dutchess and Columbia counties since 1994, Manning says he is well prepared to run for governor in the November 2006 race over republican and conservative opponents Randy Daniels, John Faso, and Bill Weld. “Fifty percent of the job is innovator. The other fifty percent is cheerleader,” he said. “I’ve got my hand in a little bit of everything.” Manning is the founder of the 100 Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Walk, chairman of Hudson Valley FRESH, a campaign to bring legislative support to family farms, and a leader in reducing school property taxes who believes the tax rate should take income into account and charge different rates to “millionaires” and “poor farmers.” “For an unknown small businessman goat herder I think I’m doing pretty well,” he said about the race. Although Brooklynites have expectations for governor that often differ from those upstate, Manning said urban and rural New Yorkers have more in common than they realize. “It’s the same issues: education, taxes, where are the jobs? What are you doing in Albany to fix that? And I’ll tell you, not a lot,” he said at the February 22 meeting, which took place at 101 Clark Street in Brooklyn Heights. The club’s president, Eric Miller, said he admired Manning for expressing his views candidly rather than falling in line with moderate tendencies of many New York republicans, and called him a “classic Ronald Reagan republican.” Manning proudly discussed his sponsorship of a bill to ban partial-birth abortions which was aborted itself, his desire to restrain the growth of Medicaid spending, and his opposition to treatment for drug dealers. “The people who sell death should be put away for life,” he said. Miller also admired Manning’s open-mindedness. While Manning bills himself as pro-life, he said, “If the democrats are trying to say that abortions should be safe and rare, then I’ll have that debate with them.” Although he plans to cut Medicaid costs if elected governor, Manning clarified that he would not cut services. Instead, he plans to improve services for those in need by eradicating corruption within the system that drains it of billions of dollars each year. Likewise, his opposition to the State Supreme Court’s 2003 CFE ruling, which ordered Governor George Pataki to pay $15 billion to city schools for past inequities in State funding, should not be mistaken for lack of interest in education. Manning has been active in bringing technology funding to state schools, and says rather than merely comply with the ruling, he wants to discuss it. Paul Schwartz, the club’s unofficial flag master, said he supports Manning’s plan for Medicaid reform with the hope that benefits will eventually be offered to people in a higher income bracket if fraud is eradicated within the system, making more funds available. About Manning, he said, “He listened to the people. I like that…If he ends up the candidate for governor against all the other people I would vote for him probably, even if he was not a Republican.” Manning was not afraid to criticize his own party either, repeatedly calling for republicans to unite and send articulate messages to the public that would bring voters to the polls who have avoided them for years. “We will not win unless republicans and conservatives lay down their swords right now and find a candidate we can both agree on,” he said. He even called President George Bush “asinine” for authorizing Dubai Ports World, a company in the United Arab Emirates, to take control of several American ports, including New York’s – a move that has been widely criticized as dangerous to national security. However, not all club members were impressed with Manning’s open expression of conservative views. “I think he’s a loser,” said member Sidney Epstein. “Any guy that’s going to go around talking about abortion is going to lose in New York City.”

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