Dan Janison Melville. N.Y. Tuesday January 26, 2010. Daniel Janison,

Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday since 1997.

Time has come for one of those pre-debate debates over campaign debates.

Candidates seen as front-runners, seeking to keep that status, often try to minimize the number of one-on-one faceoffs with opponents. In turn, the underdogs, who want the greater exposure of more debates, accuse those favorites of ducking.

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On Friday, Republican Senate challenger Wendy Long announced she's accepted an invitation from the Association for a Better Long Island to debate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. That makes the sixth debate to which Long agreed. Gillibrand has signed on to one, scheduled for Oct. 17 at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs.

"With 2.7 million residents, Long Island is home to a larger population than 16 states, and I believe they deserve a forum to discuss their unique regional needs," Long said. "Does Sen. Gillibrand know where Long Island is?"

Spokesman Glen Caplin replied Friday that Gillibrand "enjoyed being on Long Island just last week, where she had the opportunity to talk directly to Long Islanders. She looks forward to the debate Oct. 17. We haven't agreed to any additional debates at this point." He was citing Gillibrand's Sept. 14 appearance at Queen City Cupcakes in Patchogue, touting legislation aimed at extending small-business tax breaks.

But in offering to host a debate, Jan Burman, ABLI's president, specified topics of local import worthy of a full airing, including federal funding for Suffolk sewers; natural gas infrastructure; the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs' role in casino gambling; and access to low-cost hydropower from upstate New York and Canada. Association spokesman Gary Lewi said both campaigns were urged, "Give us dates that work and we will make it happen."

RECHAZADO: Suffolk election officials rejected a bid by Manuel Troche of Bay Shore, Republican challenger of Assemb. Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood), for an additional November ballot line called "Cambio NY." Of 1,235 signatures submitted, only 652 were deemed valid. A total 974 were required to qualify. Earlier, Jaime Martinez, of Rocky Point, was found to have submitted too few signatures in his own bid to use the "Cambio NY" label in the 4th Senate District, where Legis. Ricardo Montano (D-Central Islip) faces Republican Assemb. Philip Boyle (R-Bay Shore) in the race to succeed the retiring Sen. Owen Johnson (R-West Babylon). Cambio means change in Spanish; rechazado means rejected.