ALBANY - With 18 days until the state's Democratic primary, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo continued to refuse to commit to any debate with liberal challenger Zephyr Teachout.
"I'll leave that to the campaigns to work out if there should be debates, who would participate," Cuomo said at a media event at The State Fair near Syracuse Thursday.
"That's a campaign tactic I will leave to the campaign," said Cuomo, who is well known for his intense, hands-on management style.
Cuomo's campaign has so far refused to agree to any debate with liberal Democratic challenger Teachout, a Fordham law professor. Cuomo so far hasn't even discussed the many invitations to debate, Teachout said.
"The governor hasn't responded," said Teachout spokesman Mike Boland 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 also hasn't committed to any debates with Republican challenger Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive.
"Candidate debates are always important because they help voters to compare and contrast the candidates and learn directly from the candidates themselves how they see issues affecting New Yorkers," said Dick Dadey of Citizens Union, a good-government advocacy group.
Now, Astorino and Teachout are negotiating to stage a TV debate with each other, and with Cuomo as the target.
"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. He said he agreed to five debates when he was running for re-election in Westchester County.
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. News reports accused Cuomo's top aides of interfering with the commission, while Cuomo said only necessary advice was provided.
Cuomo won't discuss the case anymore to reporters, citing the federal probe. His campaign wouldn't comment Thursday.
"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.
A 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 has a wide lead over Teachout and Astorino, his closest challengers, and continued support statewide.
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. He had challenged her petition to enter the primary.
More than eight years ago, Cuomo 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 this year is comedian-activist Randy Credico of Manhattan.