ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — After weeks of balking at requests to debate his opponents, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed Friday to face off against his Republican challenger Marc Molinaro.
Molinaro immediately rejected the proposal as a political stunt by Cuomo, saying any debate featuring the candidates in the race for governor should be televised statewide.
The back-and-forth comes after Molinaro and the other three candidates have spent weeks calling on Cuomo to agree to a debate before the Nov. 6 election.
Cuomo was being interviewed Friday on WCBS radio when the host asked if he would participate in a Saturday debate at 8 a.m. Cuomo agreed, but said he would need to cancel a planned visit to one of his college-aged daughters.
"You want to call me tomorrow, I will be here," Cuomo said. "If you want to do it with Mr. Molinaro, I will be here."
Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive, called the offer "a fraud," noting most New Yorkers would be unable to listen to an early morning weekend debate held on a local radio station. He accused Cuomo of trying to dictate terms "as if he’s the Sheriff of Nottingham."
"We are not going to be props in some sort of theater production," he told reporters. "Let’s find the right place, let’s sit down and have a substantive conversation."
Later Friday, Molinaro released a statement accepting Cuomo's proposal, with conditions.
“I gladly accept a one-on-one, weekday debate with Andrew Cuomo on WCBS Radio -- with WCBS Television and Mr. Cuomo actually present. That way, New Yorkers can actually see and hear their candidates for governor. Call me old fashioned, it’s my belief that debates are about people, not politicians. The ball remains in Andrew Cuomo’s court,” Molinaro said.
Cuomo said Friday he’s doesn’t see much value in debating Molinaro, who he said has not run a "substantive" campaign.
Polls show Cuomo is far ahead of Molinaro and the other three candidates on the ballot, which includes Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins, independent ex-Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, and Libertarian Larry Sharpe.
Miner, in a statement, said any debate should include all five candidates.
"Any debate must be accessible to all New Yorkers. It would be a disservice to citizens and democracy to have a gubernatorial election without at least one televised debate featuring all candidates. Citizens deserve civil discourse and the opportunity to hear from people who want their votes," Miner said.
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