"Hello. It's me again."
That's how Buffalo's Carl Paladino used to introduce radio ads blasting his target of the week. And after licking wounds for more than a year following his 2010 defeat for governor by Democrat Andrew Cuomo, Paladino is once again announcing his presence. In a conversation a few days ago with the Politics Column, the Buffalo developer sounded like his old rabble-rousing self.
"I laid down for a year," he said. "Now it's time to pay the piper."
For starters, Paladino has replaced the Niagara Thruway billboard devoted to chastising his favorite newspaper with a new one targeting foes of all sorts and stripes, past and present. He calls it "Carl's Bucket List of Predators" ("predator" surviving as a preferred billboard word).
He checks off former Common Council President James Pitts, former School Superintendent James Williams and Niagara Thruway tolls as among predators he's "done with;" State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Rep. Brian Higgins and Buffalo Niagara Partnership President Andrew Rudnick as "not done with."
No one has ever linked Paladino with subtlety.
In late 2011, the Buffalo developer sounds more "tea partyish" than ever. He trots out old nemesis Cuomo, but doesn't spare Republicans like Skelos for "selling out to the governor."
Sure, Paladino acknowledges that Cuomo has received accolades for his rookie-year performance in Albany, but that doesn't mean he agrees. He rails against union contracts with no-layoff guarantees as well as little action on oldies but goodies like tort reform and the Scaffold Law.
He's appalled at Cuomo's new approach to economic development, and sure doesn't care for the economic development roles the governor has assigned former Assemblyman Sam Hoyt and developer Howard Zemsky.
"He filled the holes at Empire State Development with a bunch of political suits," Paladino said.
And it would be just plain no fun if Paladino didn't target The Buffalo News and other media. It wouldn't be "Carl being Carl."
"You guys don't put him to the test," he said. "If he says it, there's no challenge."
Republicans like Skelos, he says, are just as much to blame. He thinks they are too smitten with a popular new governor to assume their rightful role as loyal opposition.
"I'm going after them. I'm going after the entire Republican caucus," he said, adding he will ask Republicans to sign an oath supporting issues supported by him and legions of tea party sympathizers.
"Anybody that does not sign the oath, we're gonna primary them," he said. "We've got the tea party all around the state ready to go."
That might include Republican Sen. Pat Gallivan of Elma. Paladino accuses him of signing on to a "contrived" state budget. And Democrat Higgins remains a staple not only of the billboard, but of every Paladino conversation.
After casting his 2010 ballot, Paladino declared he would participate in no more elections. His first election would be his last. That has not changed.
"I'm more effective doing what I'm doing," he said.
Maybe Paladino lacks the gazillions that other rich guys like former Sabres owner Tom Golisano have sprinkled on New York elections, but he has a few bucks to spare. And he has not forgotten that he won the state's nine western counties in 2010 -- a fact you can bet Cuomo keeps in mind, too.
So it appears Paladino is over his funk. He might not run again for governor, but he's going to be around -- though he won't say exactly how.
"You'll see it when it comes," he said.