A former madam, a former Black Panther, a hippie and a few others walk into a room.  But wait, this isn't the beginning of a bad joke. Well maybe it is, but it’s also what happened this week in the New York governor’s debate.

Most wanted to see the two main candidates, Democrat Andrew Cuomo and Republican Carl Paladino square off, but it was hard to focus on real issues.

Perhaps the most noteworthy parts of the debate came from Jimmy McMillan of the Rent is Too Damn High Party, but he was given a run for his money by a former madam connected with the Elliot Spitzer sex scandal, Kristen Davis of the Anti-Prohibition Party. Somehow, there was time for all seven candidates to talk about issues, which included the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

Fracking is a process in which a mixture of chemicals is pumped into the ground at a high pressure to gain access to underground pockets of natural gas. Those opposing the process often articulate concerns about water contamination and other health issues, while supporters say the economic benefits of the process justify doing it.

Patch.com’s Courtney Walsh wrote a great piece about each candidate’s position on the issue, which I encourage all New York voters to check out. As for the two main candidates, Paladino and Cuomo, their comments on fracking drew some interest.

Paladino is “all systems go” when it comes to fracking, as he argues that it’s time to stop studying the issue and time to start fracking, especially outside of New York City. "We have studied it and studied it and studied it, and now they're in another study to determine whether the New York City watershed would be affected and to determine the risk of that," he said. "That's fine … but the area to the west of that study should be opened up immediately for hydrofracking."

Cuomo, for his part, didn’t exactly get specific about fracking. When asked about energy policy he replied, "We don't inherit the Earth from our parents, we are loaned the Earth from our children."

Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins took issue with Cuomo’s comments, claiming that his party calls for an outright ban of the practice, and warned that, “when the moratorium ends in May, it's going to be drill, baby, drill!"

Charles Barron, a former New York City Council member and Black Panther who represents the Freedom Party, took a few inaccurate shots at Cuomo’s fracking stance, saying Cuomo was motivated by special interests. Cuomo didn’t have to defend that comment because Libertarian candidate Warren Redlich corrected him. “I don't believe [Cuomo’s campaign funding] comes from the fracking industry … it mostly comes from real estate interests in New York City," he said.

From there, the debate moved on to other issues, leaving energy in the dust. The circus atmosphere is likely to be the last time all seven candidates are in the same arena together before Election Day, unless pay-per-view can get a contract signed before Nov. 2.

Also on MNN: Feeling behind the curve on fracking? Read this.

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