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Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano has declined an invitation to appear in a News 12 Long Island debate, citing the station’s refusal to declare on the air its "corporate relationship" with his Democratic opponent, Thomas Suozzi.
Mangano campaign manager Brian Nevin sent a letter on Monday to Patrick F. Dolan, president of News 12 Networks, informing him that the county executive would not participate in the debate.
“The Mangano campaign has on several occasions requested -- and you have refused -- to disclose during the debate your station's corporate relationship with Tom Suozzi – including approximately $200,000 in political contributions this year as well as private sector employment during prior years at your parent company, Cablevision,” Nevin wrote.
Mangano defeated Suozzi, a former two-term county executive, in a close race in 2009. In January 2010, Cablevision Systems Corp., the parent company of News 12 and Newsday, announced that it had hired Suozzi as a consultant for a high school sports venture.
Cablevison has contributed $200,000 to Suozzi and $11,000 to Mangano.
Also Tuesday, Nassau Comptroller George Maragos said a scheduling conflict will prevent him from debating Democatic challenger Howard Weitzman on News 12 next week.
A News 12 spokesperson said in a statement: “Viewers expect News 12 Long Island's election coverage to be thorough, objective and fair, as providing information on local races has been part of our mission for more than 25 years. When a candidate refuses to participate in a debate, it is News 12's policy to proceed with the forum to enable voters to be as informed as possible. News 12 intends to adhere to that policy regarding the races for Nassau County Executive and Nassau County Comptroller."
Suozzi campaign spokesman Jeff Guillot accused Mangano of ducking the debate.
“This is a cowardly act by a county executive who is unable to publicly defend his dismal record,” Guillot said. “Rather than answer questions about how his mismanagement has led to tax increases and record debt, Mangano chooses to hide from voters and by doing so is the first county executive in modern memory to snub the Long Island television station of record.”
Nevin responded: "The only coward in this race is Tom Suozzi who refuses to talk about his 8 years of failure and hides behind his former employer, Cablevision."
Mangano and Suozzi are scheduled to square off in a debate on CBS 2 that will be taped on Oct. 31 and air on Nov. 3.
News 12 said it originally had planned in the comptroller's race to conduct separate interviews with Maragos and Weitzman. But Maragos campaign officials said they were contacted by the network on Oct. 18 about arranging a comptroller’s debate. Maragos said scheduling conflicts prevented him from participating.
In a statement, Maragos said Weitzman was seeking an “11th hour debate to try and save” his campaign. Weitzman responded that Maragos was showing “cowardice” by “refusing to answer tough questions" in a televised forum.
Maragos and Weitzman previously took part in a debate hosted by the League of Women Voters.
Suozzi will be interviewed by News 12 individually on Oct. 29 while Weitzman will be interviewed on Oct. 30.