Gov. Kathy Hochul agreed on Sept. 21 to participate in a single debate with her challenger, Representative Lee Zeldin of New York’s First Congressional District, but Mr. Zeldin responded by calling the proposed Oct. 25 debate “a nonstarter,” and as of Wednesday the candidates had not mutually agreed to debate.
Mr. Zeldin has proposed five in-person debates to be held across the state. Ms. Hochul agreed to one debate at Pace University in New York City, hosted by Spectrum News NY1.
In an online press conference last Thursday, Mr. Zeldin told a New York Post reporter that he rejected the governor’s offer. “I believe that it’s important for Kathy Hochul to come back with an offer to do multiple debates in multiple parts of this state,” he said. “So I am not playing along with her games. I’m not going to be playing along with this strategy that is an insult, disrespecting the voters of New York. I’m here today calling on her to come forward with a new plan, a new plan to do multiple debates across this state.”
Most polls show Ms. Hochul, the Democratic candidate, comfortably ahead in the race. Five polls conducted in June, July, August, and this month showed her leading Mr. Zeldin by between 14 and 24 percentage points. One poll, conducted on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, had her leading by just five percentage points.
The state’s first female governor, Ms. Hochul is seeking election in her own right after her elevation from lieutenant governor in the wake of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s resignation in August 2021. She participated in two debates with her primary opponents, whom she easily defeated in the June 28 primary election.
A statement from the governor’s campaign on Sept. 21 said she would announce additional public forums and speaking engagements ahead of the Nov. 8 election.
Also on Sept. 21, the campaign of Mr. Zeldin, the Republican candidate from Shirley, responded to the governor’s announcement that she would participate in an Oct. 25 debate. Noting that absentee ballots were to be distributed starting on Friday, more than a month before the scheduled debate, the campaign said, “Congressman Zeldin previously accepted the first two debate requests he received from CBS2 and PIX11, both of which Hochul is totally blowing off with her announcement this afternoon trying to get away with just one. Being that Hochul is trying to play these games with the media and New York voters, Congressman Zeldin is proposing that CBS2 and PIX11 schedule debates anyways and if Hochul is a no-show, then the debate can just proceed without her and with an empty podium.”
In her campaign’s Sept. 21 statement, a spokesman said that the governor “looks forward to highlighting the clear contrast between her strong record of delivering results and Lee Zeldin’s extreme agenda. While Zeldin continues to push his far-right plans to ban abortion and roll back common-sense gun safety laws, Governor Hochul remains committed to building a stronger, safer, and more affordable New York.”
Election Day is Nov. 8. Early voting will take place from Oct. 29 through Nov. 6.