Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday refused to say why she didn’t respond to Lee Zeldin’s request for five statewide debates – saying only that she was “ready to debate with her Republican challenger.”
Hochul’s reluctance to specifically commit to a series of face-offs came amid her campaign schedule for a $2 million junk blitz targeting both English- and Spanish-speaking voters, and days after the last poll revealed that the underdog Zeldin is only 4% behind the Democratic incumbent. .
With just nine weeks until Election Day on Nov. 8, Hochul spent a second day dodging questions from The Post about when and where she was ready to debate with Zeldin, an outgoing Long Island congressman.
“I have already said that I am ready for a debate. I’m always debating,” she said during an independent news conference at Manhattan’s Penn Station.
“This is my 14th choice. I really look forward to debates. It will happen.”
MTA Chairman Janno Lieber, who had been nominated to his post by Hochul in January, also stepped in to support them and attack Zeldin.
“I hope when the debate comes, we’ll talk about the fact that Zeldin, the only Republican in the New York area, didn’t vote for the infrastructure bill,” Lieber said.
“This is of particular concern to us who are trying to rebuild the MTA and the transit system. So I hope that will be part of the debate.”
The remarks came a day after Hochul stormed off from the West Indian Day parade in Brooklyn, ignoring a shouted question from The Post about the Zeldin debate, which a staffer later claimed she had not heard.
Hochul has been vague about her willingness to debate Zeldin since her campaign agreed in principle last month.
CBS New York and PIX11 have each offered to host and televise a debate.
During a separate press conference in Manhattan, Zeldin said he had already agreed to attend those events.
“What is Kathy Hochul so afraid of?” he said.
“That’s something she should be excited about. That is the democratic process.”
Zeldin said he wanted “at least two debates in the New York media market, at least one debate in the metropolitan area media market, at least one debate in the Rochester or Buffalo media markets, and at least one in the other New York media markets.”
“I would be willing to debate with Kathy Hochul at any media market in New York,” he added.
Mercury Public Affairs lobbyist and strategist Tom Doherty, who was an aide to former Gov. George Pataki, said Hochul appeared to be basing her moves on “polls saying I have to go away and do nothing.”
“The Rose Garden strategy is, you know, what a lot of incumbents do,” he said.
“It tells me that somewhere between a 24-point lead and a 4-point lead, it’s best if she just doesn’t say much and just goes about her business – and why attack the opponent?”
Democratic policy adviser Camille Rivera said Hochul could easily end Zeldin’s attacks — and jump-start her own campaign — by agreeing to debate with him.
“I think she needs to upset the base a bit,” Rivera said.
“I think a debate is good and they should just take the oxygen out of it.”
Democratic adviser Bruce Gyory also warned that Zeldin should heed the axiom: “Be careful what you wish for.”
“When challengers make a debate an issue, they can come up with something like, ‘Oh, we want more debates, this and that,’ but once the debates happen, it’s like a long needle that has a balloon stings – it evaporates.” he said.
Gyory noted that Zeldin “wasn’t the most polished debater in the primaries” and tended to “look a little flabbergasted.”
https://nypost.com/2022/09/06/gov-hochul-responds-to-lee-zeldins-demand-for-5-debates/ Governor Hochul responds to Lee Zeldin’s request for 5 debates