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NY Governor's Debate Is On For Cuomo, Molinaro

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his Republican opponent, Marc Molinaro, have agreed to a televised debate on CBS2 in New York City at 7 p.m. Tuesday, after weeks of wrangling. But not everyone is satisfied.

The deal comes after the New York Post featured on its front page for two days in a row a digitally-edited image of Cuomo in a chicken suit, to illustrate what they said was the governor’s reluctance to agree to terms of a debate.

Besides Cuomo, Marc Molinaro will be the only other candidate invited.

Molinaro says he wanted more than one debate, and sought to focus on upstate New York and Long Island as well as New York City. Molinaro, speaking on a cell phone on a conference call with reporters, says as the underdog in the race, he’s taking what he can get for now.

“We are debating tomorrow,” said Molinaro, who asked the media to join him in calling for more debates around the state. “The governor would have to explain why he thinks other parts of the state aren’t important enough.”  

A spokeswoman for Governor Cuomo’s campaign turned the tables on Molinaro, saying it is the Republican candidate who has been reluctant to debate.

"After days of ducking the debate, we’re glad Marc Molinaro has finally agreed," said spokeswoman Dani Lever.

The other candidates in the race for governor are dismayed over not being included in the forum.

Independent candidate for governor and former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says a single debate, downstate, “hurts democracy."

“Fundamental to our democracy is the idea that voters deserve to hear from you,” Miner said. “Andrew Cuomo is doing a disservice to this state by not allowing that to happen."

Miner says incumbent governors in other states who, like Cuomo, are ahead in the polls, have still agreed to hold several debates with their opponents. 

One other debate in the governor’s race is planned for November 1 in Albany, and will be hosted by the League of Women Voters and the College of Saint Rose.  The League’s Jennifer Wilson says Molinaro, Miner, Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins and Libertarian candidate Larry Sharpe have all accepted. Governor Cuomo has so far not said "yes."

“We can’t force him to be there,” Wilson said. “But if he doesn’t come we are going to honor those four candidates who will show up.”

Wilson says having just one debate between the two major party candidates is “unacceptable."

“We really need to hear from all five candidates at the same time,” Wilson said. “So that voters can make an informed decision on Election Day.”

The November 1  debate will be livestreamed on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as on the League’s and Saint Rose's web sites.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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