Cuomo’s Rivals From Right and Left Debate Since He Won’t


After Gov. Andrew Cuomo refused to debate his Democratic primary opponent, Zephyr Teachout did the next best thing: engaged the Republican nominee in the governor’s race in an odd but amiable debate Thursday in which they disagreed on everything, except their shared dislike for Cuomo.

Teachout and Republican Rob Astorino used the hour-long exchange on WNYC radio to promote their own campaigns and throw some bipartisan barbs at Cuomo, who polls suggest is way ahead in his bid for a second term.

“You’re listening to two people who disagree but are principled,” said Astorino, the Westchester County executive. “Andrew Cuomo stands for nothing … we may disagree on how to get there, but at least we’re principled in our opinions.”

Teachout, a Columbia University law professor who says Cuomo hasn’t done enough on inequality, went after the incumbent for refusing to debate before Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

“Andrew Cuomo has an obligation to the public; it’s ultimately disrespectful to voters,” Teachout said. “Democratic primary voters deserve to hear us interact.”

Earlier this week, Cuomo said debates aren’t always good for democracy, a possible reference to the 2010 gubernatorial debates that featured Jimmy McMillan’s Rent is Too High Party.

“I’ve been in many debates that I think were a disservice to democracy,” Cuomo told reporters. “Anybody who says debates are always a service to democracy hasn’t watched all the debates that I’ve been in.”

Polls show that Teachout and Astorino aren’t well known to many voters. At the debate, the two had stark differences of opinion when it came to the big issues facing state government.

Fracking? Good for the rural economy, according to Astorino. Bad for health and the environment, according to Teachout.

What about economic development? Teachout said the state should invest in education and renewable energy. Astorino proposed cutting taxes and regulations.

Should New York City be allowed to set its own minimum wage? Teachout said yes, and it should be $15 an hour. Astorino said no and argued that local wage laws would lead to economic chaos.

At the end of the debate, Teachout told Astorino she respected him for participating in the back-and-forth. Astorino went a step further, saying something to Teachout that’s rarely uttered during a political debate:

“Good luck on Tuesday.”

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