State Sens. Ed Rath and Sean Ryan have agreed to a debate set to take place six days before next month's general election.
St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute in the Town of Tonawanda will host the pair on Nov. 2 in their annual political debate.
"This is a unique race, with two incumbents, and our students are working hard to prepare questions relevant to voters in the 61st district and the entire WNY community," St. Joe's President Christopher M. Fulco said in a statement Friday. "This debate is a long-standing tradition at St. Joe's, a wonderful learning experience for our students and a terrific opportunity for candidates to share their visions and platforms with their constituents."
The debate will take place at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 2 at the high school, 845 Kenmore Ave.
It is open to the media, not to the public, but it will be livestreamed on the school's Facebook page and YouTube channel. Students from St. Joe's Equity and Diversity Club and its AP government class will moderate the debate.
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The veteran lawmakers were thrown together in the new 61st Senate district after district lines were redrawn earlier this year.
Rath, an Amherst Republican, represents the current version of the 61st, which now stretches from northeastern Erie County across Genesee County to a portion of Monroe County.
Ryan, a Buffalo Democrat, represents the 60th district, which covers part of Buffalo, the City and Town of Tonawanda, and the towns of Brant, Evans, Grand Island, Hamburg and Orchard Park.
Reapportionment, required once a decade, led to new district boundaries that thrust the lawmakers into the same race.
The reshaped 61st Senate district still includes the Town of Amherst, represented by Rath now, but also takes in a large swath of Ryan's 60th district: a chunk of Buffalo, the Tonawandas and Grand Island.
Redistricting created a 61st district with enrollment that is 47% Democratic and 25% Republican, state election records show. City & State New York rates it as a safe Democratic seat.
For example, residents of the newly drawn 61st district went for Joe Biden over Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election by 63% to 37%, according to data from the New York Times tabulated by The Graduate Center at CUNY and the Center for Urban Research for their Redistricting & You collaboration.
Rath had $173,173 in his campaign account as of Oct. 7, according to state campaign finance records, compared to $322,308 for Ryan at the same point.
The two candidates will take part in this year's version of an annual, student-led debate tradition at St. Joe's that goes back to 1984. Last year's debate featured Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Democratic nominee India Walton and write-in candidate Ben Carlisle.
This year, the high school had invited Gov. Kathy Hochul and GOP opponent Lee Zeldin to debate but the gubernatorial candidates did not accept.
Instead, the school will host a debate between two sitting state senators.
"Senator Ryan is excited to be out on the campaign trail meeting and speaking with voters and telling them why he fights for what's right for Western New York," Alex Elmasri, Ryan's campaign spokesman, said in an email. "He looks forward to speaking with students at St. Joe's and the voters of the 61st district about what is at stake in this election from gun safety to reproductive rights."
The Rath campaign didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated how much money Rath had in his campaign account as of Oct. 7.