October 23, 2014
Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino has issued the following statement:
I hope you were able to see at least a few minutes of last night’s four-candidate debate in Buffalo. It was informative — and inadequate.
A single, 56-minute debate featuring four candidates — we each got 12 minutes to speak — as the sole televised forum in a New York gubernatorial election is an insult to this state and its voters. Neighboring Connecticut, a state with one-fifth our population, is featuring seven televised debates this year between the two major party candidates.
When did it become acceptable in New York to duck debates and call it a “campaign tactic?” When did we stop demanding — I mean really demanding — that our candidates fulfill their elemental civic responsibility to debate when running for office?
Editorial boards across the state lament the influence of big money in New York elections, yet remain relatively mute when a statewide candidate chooses to hide from debate forums. Debates are the only way voters can get unfiltered access to candidates, if only for a few minutes, to size them up before Election Day. Without an adequate number of available debates, voters have little on which to base their decisions other than the big-money negative advertisements blaring day and night on television and radio.
When I ran for re-election in Westchester last year I debated my challenger five times. Many said I should not have, but I considered it my civic duty. I think Governor Cuomo has that same duty today.
I have accepted five one-on-one televised debate offers in this election. Governor Cuomo refuses to accept any of those offers. If he is allowed to get away with it, democracy in New York will take yet another hit. It will become normal, as it almost seems today, to avoid America’s time-honored tradition of publicly answering questions at open forums before votes are cast. That would be a civic tragedy.
Many of you have already written on this issue, imploring Governor Cuomo to fulfill his public responsibility to debate. I ask that you consider redoubling that effort now. Your words carry weight. They are badly needed, and now.