Capitol Watch: Cuomo continues to duck debates
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Voters have only a month left to go before they decide the winner of the Democratic primary matchup between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon — but Cuomo still hasn’t agreed to the terms for a debate.
Meanwhile, a leading environmental group is singling out the Republican leader of the state Senate for blocking progress on several initiatives intended to protect the environment.
A look at stories making news:
Cuomo pledged months ago to debate Nixon, but has not committed to a date with only a month to go before the primary election.
The television news channel NY1 has invited both candidates to an Aug. 22 debate at Queens College, but Cuomo has yet to agree to the event.
Spokespeople for Cuomo and Hochul say a debate will happen, and that the delay is due to ongoing negotiations over picking a date, outlet and format.
“We look forward to a robust debate,” said Cuomo spokeswoman Lis Smith. “We are currently receiving invitations and reviewing the various opportunities”
If the narrative seems familiar it’s because it is. Four years ago, Cuomo refused to debate his primary opponent, Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout. She’s now running for attorney general.
Polls give Cuomo a commanding lead in the race. He’s also well ahead when it comes to fundraising, giving him a big advantage when it comes to airing ads that speak directly to voters. Candidates ahead in polling and fundraising typically have less to gain from debates than their opponents, who often try to use a debate as a free way to broadcast their message.
“Cuomo doesn’t want to have an honest debate,” Nixon said last week. “Because he doesn’t want New Yorkers to know that they have a real choice.”
Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause-New York, said it’s the public that loses out the most when candidates won’t debate.
“It is unacceptable that Gov. Cuomo has yet to agree to public debates with his primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon,” she said. “Debating is an essential part of democracy that can’t be replaced by 30 second television ads.”
OIL SLICK AWARD
The group Environmental Advocates of New York released its annual scorecard of how lawmakers voted on bills impacting the environment and Senate Leader John Flanagan came out the big loser.
Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, won the “Oil Slick Award,” given each year to the lawmaker who Environmental Advocates says did the most to block efforts to protect the environment.
The group looks at how lawmakers voted on bills relating to pollution, water and air quality, erosion and open space conservation. It cited Flanagan’s work to block bills that would impose a carbon tax on business emissions and prohibit potentially dangerous chemicals from toys, as well as skeptical comments he made about the reality of climate change.
“The Senate continues to be a place where big, bold environmental ideas go to die,” the group said in a report accompanying its scorecard.
Flanagan spokesman Scott Reif dismissed the criticism as politically motivated. He noted that under Flanagan the Senate approved $2.5 billion for clean water projects, as well as record funding levels for the state’s environmental protection fund.
“Anyone who is paying attention knows that Sen. Flanagan cares very deeply about the environment,” Reif said.
The Senate will hold a hearing Monday in Binghamton on the state’s efforts to boost businesses owned by women or minorities. Similar hearings are scheduled in New York City, Canandaigua and Long island in coming months.