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Cuomo, Molinaro agree to TV debate Tuesday

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, left, and Dutchess County

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, left, and Dutchess County Executive and GOP gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro will debate on WCBS at 10 a.m. Tuesday.  Credit: Charles Eckert

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and his Republican opponent, Marc Molinaro, will debate Tuesday, both campaigns announced Monday.

Cuomo's campaign had committed to Tuesday's date late Sunday night.

The debate will be taped Tuesday at 1:30 p.m., and will be broadcast at 7 p.m. on CBS television and radio stations statewide.

"Governor Cuomo dictated the rules," Molinaro said Monday.

Cuomo campaign spokeswoman Dani Lever said, "After days of ducking the debate, we’re glad Marc Molinaro has finally agreed."

Molinaro said he wants at least two debates, one in New York City and one in Buffalo, but will participate in Tuesday's debate even if Cuomo refuses to do more.

 "My job is to start a fire in the hearts of New Yorkers," Molinaro said Monday. "My job tomorrow is to simply do what underdogs do, speak on behalf of those people that don’t often get to sit in that room. ... I am given the opportunity to stand in a place that no kid who grew up on food stamps gets to experience."

Cuomo campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith tweeted Sunday that Molinaro simply wanted to use the lack of debates as a campaign issue, but was afraid to actually debate Cuomo. "We know you love to debate debates, but enough with these games," she tweeted.

The debate will be only between Cuomo and Molinaro, and will not include any minor party candidates. A League of Women Voters forum this week seeks to include all candidates.

The candidates have sparred publicly, with Molinaro seeking a debate at any time, anywhere for months. 

Cuomo negotiated details of the debate with the CBS radio and television affiliates, although Molinaro had publicly insisted on some aspects, such as television coverage. The debate will exclude the candidate for the Green Party, which as a result of gaining more than 50,000 votes in the 2014 election for governor has an automatic place on the statewide ballot.    

“CBS is acting like state media for the American two-party state,” said Howie Hawkins, the Green Party nominee. “We need Cuomo to start respecting the voters and agree to the inclusive debate that the League of the Women Voters is organizing.”

Tuesday’s debate will also exclude other minor party candidates, including Larry Sharpe of the Libertarian Party and Stephanie Miner of the bipartisan Serve America Movement.

“A single debate without all candidates hurts democracy,” said Miner, the former mayor of Syracuse. “A single debate in New York City ignores the interests of upstate voters. A single debate won’t provide enough opportunity to examine Andrew Cuomo’s record or anyone's vision for the state's future. New Yorkers deserve better.”

- With Lisa Colangelo

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