NEW YORK (AP) – New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Friday abruptly withdrew from a debate against Republican challenger Chele Farley, citing a long-running labor dispute involving the stations that were set to air it.
Gillibrand, a Democrat running for re-election on Nov. 6, said she would pull out of the Spectrum News debate planned for Sunday because of the strike by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 against Spectrum’s parent company, Charter Communications.
The debate was to take place at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs and was scheduled to air on NY1 in New York City and on other Spectrum stations in the state.
Gillibrand said in a statement that she would not cross “a de facto picket line” to participate in the debate. She said she would be ready to debate with a different media partner if Charter and the IBEW do not resolve their 19-month-old dispute by Sunday.
Farley said Gillibrand had “chickened out” of debating and suggested that Gillibrand is too busy laying the groundwork for a possible presidential run to attend to her re-election campaign.
“It is shocking to me that a senator who has spent more time on the road campaigning for 2020, than she has re-election, would have so little respect for the voters,” Farley said in a statement.
Gillibrand joins fellow Democratic politicians, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who have said over the past week that they are boycotting Spectrum.
Gillibrand, Cuomo and de Blasio have all appeared on several Spectrum stations in the year and a half since the labor dispute started in March 2017.
Charter said in a statement that it was disappointed by Gillibrand’s announcement “and the union’s strong-arm tactics with elected officials that use NY1 as a political prop at a time when there are fewer and fewer objective local news outlets.”