ALBANY – The on-again, off-again gubernatorial debate is on for good.
Republican Marc Molinaro, who beat back Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s attempt to limit viewership of any debate, said Monday he has accepted the latest offer from the Democratic incumbent to meet in a session Tuesday afternoon in Manhattan for broadcast statewide later that evening.
“We have what we asked for,’’ Molinaro told reporters in a conference call.
The debate, according to a source, will be held at 1:30 p.m. and, unlike a previous plan proposed by Cuomo, will have both candidates appear in person. The plan is for the debate to be aired at 7 p.m. on WCBS-TV and radio stations in New York City. The debate will be offered to CBS radio and TV affiliates across the state to air at the same time.
Molinaro said the format and terms of the debate were “dictated” by Cuomo, but he said it will be a “big opportunity” to present himself to voters who might not know him. “It’s also an opportunity to hold the governor accountable,’’ he added.
The GOP candidate, who is the Dutchess County executive, also called for more debates, including one in Buffalo and the Southern Tier, and noted he and the contest’s three minor party candidates have accepted a League of Women Voters debate offer for the last week of October in Albany. Cuomo has not accepted that offer.
Cuomo debated his Democratic primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon, in New York City. Issues discussed in that debate ignored upstate and Long Island. The Tuesday debate will be in Manhattan with questions coming from two reporters, one from WCBS radio and the other from WCBS TV.
Molinaro said upstate debates will be important. He said some communities are in “virtual rubble,’’ adding, “upstate New Yorkers are about to become endangered species.’’
Cuomo last Friday accepted a debate for 8 a.m. the following morning on WCBS radio. Molinaro dismissed it, calling it “staged fraud” and said he wanted any debate to be broadcast on television across the state at an hour where people will have a better chance of watching. Other debate offers, also with more limited chances for viewers or listeners, were also made by Cuomo over the weekend. The final one – which Molinaro accepted Monday morning – came late Sunday night.
Cuomo was hit hard over the debate issue by some newspaper editorial boards. The New York Post depicted Cuomo in a chicken suit on its front page for three straight days after the controversy erupted.
"After ducking the debate, we're glad Marc Molinaro has finally agreed,'' Dani Lever, a Cuomo campaign spokeswoman, said in a statement accepting the debate for Tuesday.
Minor party candidates were upset the Tuesday debate cuts them out. "A single debate without all candidates hurts democracy. A single debate in New York City ignores the interests of Upstate voters. A single debate won’t provide enough opportunity to examine Andrew Cuomo’s record or anyone's vision for the state's future,'' said Stephanie Miner, a former Syracuse mayor who is running on the new Serve America Movement ballot line.
The other candidates in the race are Howie Hawkins of the Green Party and Larry Sharpe of the Libertarian Party.
The League of Women Voters of New York State on Monday said it is hosting an upstate gubernatorial debate on November 1. The non-partisan group last week said it would hold a debate in Albany just prior to the election, and four out of five of the candidates told The Buffalo News on Friday they would attend the League's event. Cuomo has not committed to attending.
The League said it will hold the debate if as few as two of the five candidates show up for the session, which will be held at The College of Saint Rose.