No Debate: Voters Need More

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino wants eight public debates, held throughout the state, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

It’s a good idea that, for a variety of reasons, stands little chance of happening.

Incumbents hate to take the risk of debates. Cuomo’s political handlers know an incumbent with a 35-point lead in the polls and a sizeable fundraising advantage has nothing to gain and much to lose by sharing the stage with a challenger. A slip-up in front of a live audience not only could hurt the governor in November’s election but hurt his chances for a possible run for President.

There was only one debate in the last gubernatorial election – a circus that became a national joke featuring former so-called ‘Manhattan Madam’ Kristin Davis, the woman who booked prostitutes for former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, and Jimmy McMillan, better known as the “Rent Is Too Damn High” guy who was satired on “Saturday Night Live” for the bulk of the campaign. That debate was so unwieldy it was nearly impossible to get a good sense of where Cuomo or his main challenger, Carl Paladino, stood on anything.

Is it any wonder, between the circus that politics has become and the difficulty in getting candidates to discuss issues in a format other than canned talking points, that voter turnout in recent governor’s elections has been so poor? Only 36.48 percent of New York’s registered voters cast a ballot when Cuomo was elected in 2010. The number was only marginally more at 40 percent in the 2006 governor’s race.

Those who care about the future of New York state have serious issues they want to hear Astorino and Cuomo discuss, including but certainly not limited to gun control, taxes, education, hydraulic fracturing and how New York can put an end to the bad behavior of its legislators and public officials. It would make sense that debates be held, broadcast on various public access outlets statewide and livestreamed over the Internet. New York’s voting public deserves to have such access to the candidates running for governor.

It is unfortunate they likely won’t get it.