Republican gubernatorial nominee Rep. Lee Zeldin on Thursday shot down as “unacceptable” Gov. Kathy Hochul’s bid to have only one debate before the election, saying her response was woefully inadequate for New York state voters to hear their positions on important issues.
“I am rejecting that offer and I am suggesting that the governor needs to come back with an offer to do multiple debates across the entire state,” Zeldin said during a press briefing.
“One debate is unacceptable. I’m calling on Kathy Hochul to come out of hiding.”
After facing “Scaredy Kat” criticism for weeks, Hochul on Wednesday finally agreed to face Zeldin on Oct. 25, at a debate co-sponsored by Pace University and cable TV’s Spectrum News NY1 — just four days before the start of early voting on Oct. 29.
Zeldin has previously accepted offers by CBS-2 and PIX-11 to debate Hochul on TV.
But Hochul’s campaign has not accepted those offers and said Thursday the governor was standing firm on a single, one-hour debate on NY1.
Hochul has been ahead of Zeldin in the polls since replacing disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo following his August 2021 resignation amid a litany of scandals including alleged sexual misconduct, which he has denied.
“Governor Hochul looks forward to debating on Oct. 25 and highlighting the clear contrast between her strong record of delivering results and Lee Zeldin’s extreme agenda,” her campaign spokesman Jerrel Harvey said.
Other heavily favored Democratic incumbents are taking the same tack as Hochul by agreeing to only one debate, if any at all.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has tentatively agreed to one televised debate with GOP opponent Joe Pinion on October 30 — 8 days before Election Day — co-hosted by Spectrum News/NY1 — sources said. Schumer, first elected to the Senate in 1998, is running for a fifth term.
“The debate has been scheduled. We’re working on the details,” said Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro.
Pinion, who confirmed the tentative face-off on Oct. 30, said, “One debate, eight days before the election, is a slap in the face to the voters.”
A source close to NY1 said “nothing has been confirmed” regarding the senatorial debate.
Meanwhile, Republican candidate for state attorney general Michael Henry slammed Democrat incumbent AG Letitia James for refusing to agree to a debate. James, who is seeking a second term, made big waves Wednesday by filing a $250 million lawsuit against former President Donald Trump, his kids Eric, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., and the Trump Organization — alleging “staggering” fraud in the family real estate business.
Henry spokeswoman Candice Giove said James’ campaign has not responded to queries about appearing together on the debate stage. “We’ve gotten no answer,” she said.
The James campaign had no immediate comment.
Elsewhere, Republican candidate for state comptroller, Paul Rodriguez, is in talks with Democrat incumbent Tom DiNapoli to debate at least once, according to Rodriguez’s spokesman, John Burnett.