National News

Nixon Pushes Cuomo to Debate

Posted May 7, 2018 7:36 p.m. EDT

Cynthia Nixon looked straight into the camera and issued a challenge to New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: Debate me, if you’re brave enough.

“So, what’s it going to be Andrew?” she taunted the incumbent governor in a video released by her campaign Monday. “Just you and me, on a stage.”

Demanding debates is a tried-and-true tactic for challengers, but few seem to issue such demands with the particular glee that Nixon displayed, especially with the Democratic primary for governor of New York still four months away.

“No huge multicandidate free-for-all like you always insist on. One-on-one,” Nixon said in the short video. “No distractions, and nowhere to hide.”

“Your move,” she adds with a mischievous smile.

In the video, Nixon said that WABC and its partners had offered to stage a televised debate between her and Cuomo.

“I accept their invitation,” she said.

Lis Smith, a spokeswoman for the Cuomo campaign, said that they were “receiving invitations and reviewing the various opportunities.”

“We look forward to a robust debate,” she said.

Four years ago, Cuomo avoided debating or even sharing a stage with his then Democratic primary challenger, Zephyr Teachout, who was trying to mount a long-shot bid. By the numbers, Nixon, at the moment, is also facing long odds: The most recent survey, from Quinnipiac University, showed her trailing Cuomo 50 percent to 28 percent, though that was a smaller lead than in previous other public polls.

But those margins have belied what is already an intense contest, with both sides dueling over public policies and personal tax returns.

Nixon released her taxes for 2017 on Friday (they showed $1.3 million in earnings) as Cuomo’s campaign demanded she make public 10 years of personal tax returns. “If you have something to hide, this is the wrong business to get into,” Cuomo told reporters.

Allies of Cuomo at the state Democratic Party soon echoed the governor, announcing a resolution to require 10 years of tax disclosures for statewide candidates.

Nixon’s campaign noted that Cuomo did not release his tax return in his first successful 2010 bid for governor, calling him a hypocrite. Cuomo released a summary that year before the election and aides said he had released his taxes in many prior years.

Nixon’s allies Monday were also quick to pounce on her challenge to the governor.

Jonathan Westin, director of New York Communities for Change, a progressive group that endorsed Nixon’s bid for governor a month ago, suggested in a Twitter post that it would be “really weird for him to act like a coward,” given that the governor “is running a completely chauvinistic campaign.”

Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, said her group is considering pushing for legislation in Albany this year that would force all statewide candidates in New York to debate.

“That really provides important information to voters,” Lerner said. “This is the ultimate transparency. Tell the voters directly — not through advertising — what your position is.”

The jousting comes before the state party convention later this month, where Nixon could win an automatic spot on the primary ballot if 25 percent of the delegates, weighted through a formula, support her.

Nixon can also circulate petitions, which she has signaled is her more likely route.