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ALBANY — The only debate in the governor’s race before the Sept. 9 Democratic primary apparently won’t include Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
Cuomo’s campaign has so far refused to agree to any debate with Democratic challenger Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham law professor. Cuomo so far hasn’t even discussed the many invitations to debate, Teachout said.
“The governor hasn’t responded,” Teachout spokesman Mike Boland said on Thursday. “We’re hopeful we can have a debate about our vision for a small business economy and democracy that works for all of us.”
Cuomo’s campaign on Thursday declined to comment on whether it will agree to any debates. At a press event at the State Fair near Syracuse, Cuomo wouldn’t say whether he would debate. He said he's leaving that to his campaign.
Republican candidate Rob Astorino, however, said Thursday that he and Teachout are negotiating to debate each other on TV.
“If the governor is too much of a coward to debate her, or his defense attorneys won’t let him, I still think she should have the opportunity as should I,” Astorino said Thursday in a news conference in Albany.
Astorino spokeswoman Jessica Proud said she doesn’t expect Cuomo to debate because of the continuing Moreland Commission investigation. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York is investigating the commission created and shuttered by Cuomo and its unfinished public corruption cases. Press reports accused Cuomo’s top aides of interfering with the commission, while Cuomo said only necessary advice was provided.
Cuomo won’t talk about the case to reporters, citing the federal probe.
“If you believe in democracy and if you are confident of your views and your record, you go out and have the debate,” said Astorino, the Westchester County executive. He said he agreed to five debates last year in his re-election bid.
Quinnipiac University poll on Wednesday found 88 percent of voters didn’t know enough about Teachout to have an opinion of her. The polls show Cuomo holds a wide lead over Teachout and Astorino, his closest challengers, and continued statewide support.
Cuomo also had $30 million more in his campaign account than Astorino or Teachout, according to the July filings with the Board of Elections.
Teachout, of Brooklyn, beat Cuomo a second time in court this week in his challenge of her petition to enter the primary. After his appeal lost in a unanimous decision, a Cuomo campaign spokesman said the campaign would not seek a further appeal.
Over eight years ago, Cuomo had refused to participate in a second debate in his bid to become attorney general. Without him, the challengers spent most of that second debate criticizing Cuomo. Cuomo still won the primary and general election easily.
Also in the Democratic primary for governor is comedian-activist Randy Credico of Manhattan.