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Carl Paladino avoids controversy in New York governor debate

Carl Paladino emerged unscathed from a debate between the candidates for New York governor on Monday night, dashing predictions of more of the fireworks that have marked his campaign.

The Republican candidate remained composed throughout the event, declining to rise to teasing by Kristin Davis, a former "Manhattan madam", who is standing for the Anti-Prohibition Party.

Asked about corporate tax rates, Miss Davis said that if they went up, "businesses will leave the state faster than Carl Paladino at a gay bar". Mr Paladino received sharp criticism last week after saying that children should not be "brainwashed" into thinking being gay was acceptable.

The Tea Party-backed candidate also criticised Andrew Cuomo, his Democrat rival, for taking his children to a gay pride march, which he described as "disgusting".

It later emerged that Mr Paladino, a property developer, counted two gay bars among his tenants.

Mr Paladino was also caught on camera squaring up to a newspaper reporter. A poll by The New York Times found that 59pc of voters though he did not have the right temperament to be governor.

By contrast, 73pc of people said that Mr Cuomo, the son of Mario Cuomo, a former state governor, did.

Mr Paladino, who stumbled badly over several answers, directly addressed his detractors at one point in the debate. "My critics, they want to say I'm angry," he said. "No. I'm passionate about saving New York".

All seven candidates, who included a representative of the Rent Is Too Damn High party, competed to be the most strident in attacking the record of politicians at the New York state house.

Mr Cuomo, the state's outgoing Attorney General, said: "I spent four years in the belly of the beast, looking at state government. We have to cut the waste and fraud." In one of the most memorable, and risqué answers of the evening, Miss Davis said: "Career politicians in Albany are the biggest whores in this state. I may be the only person on the stage qualified to deal with them." Polls indicate that Mr Cuomo is on course to win the governorship comfortably.