With 11 days to go until the Democratic primary election, it looks pretty unlikely that Governor Andrew Cuomo will ever debate Zephyr Teachout, his main challenger, despite many requests from her, and even an online petition circulated by her campaign. Cuomo missed New York 1’s August 28 deadline to respond to an invitation for a debate on September 2.
Teachout, a law professor at Fordham University, has been calling on Cuomo to debate her for several weeks. In our cover story on Teachout last week, ,she said she thought the governor would ultimately respond to her challenge: “I think he’ll do it at some point. It’ll become increasingly embarrassing for him not to do it. I think the pressure will be harder and harder for him to ignore.”
But with the NY1 deadline past, it’s increasingly difficult to see when and how the two candidates might debate. Meanwhile, Republican candidate Rob Astorino will debate Teachout on Brian Lehrer’s show on radio station WNYC on September 4. And Teachout and her running mate for lieutenant Governor, Tim Wu, are using the governor’s debate-ducking as another line of attack against him. Earlier this week, according to Capital New York, Cuomo indicated that he wasn’t personally involved in the debate discussions, telling a crowd of reporters, “My campaign will be talking to my rivals’ campaigns and they’ll figure it out I’m sure.”
Presented with that quote at her own press conference later the same day, Capital reports, Teachout replied, “”Does anybody take that seriously? This is finally Andrew Cuomo’s decision. If he avoids responsibility it suggests again an abdication of the basic roles of leadership. Part of leadership is making your own decisions. It’s certainly his decision whether or not to debate.”
The Teachout campaign has yet to issue a formal comment on Cuomo missing the NY1 deadline, but the candidate, who’s active on Twitter, has retweeted a number of questions from her supporters, most asking Cuomo why he’s “afraid” to debate her. And yesterday, as the deadline slipped past, she tweeted this:
Silence from Andrew Cuomo.
— zephyrteachout (@zephyrteachout) August 29, 2014
The Cuomo campaign still won’t say definitively that they’re turning the challenge down. Peter Kauffmann, a spokesperson for Governor Cuomo’s campaign, tell the Voice via email, “No decision on debates has been made at this time.”
Reached for comment on Friday morning, Teachout said she’d spoken to New York 1 not long ago. “I am still planning to go to the studio on Tuesday,” she said, sounding cheery. “I’m still preparing for a debate. New York voters still clearly want to have a debate. And every day that Andrew Cuomo refuses to debate, thousands more people join our campaign. His refusal suggests that he’s scared of talking about his record.”
This post has been updated with comments from Zephyr Teachout.