Capitol Watch: Gov Debate Largely Avoided Upstate Issues
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — In New York state political news, there's still time for at least one more debate in the governor's race, but don't expect Gov. Andrew Cuomo to show up.
The other four candidates have agreed to participate in the exchange hosted by the League of Women Voters. But Democratic nominee Cuomo hasn't agreed to participate. He and Republican Marc Molinaro held a one-on-one debate last week in Manhattan.
Meanwhile, the governor is getting some last-minute help from actor and activist Alyssa Milano, and Republicans are pushing back against state Attorney General Barbara Underwood's lawsuit against Exxon Mobil.
Here's a look at stories making news:
ONE MORE DEBATE?
Republican Marc Molinaro, Green party nominee Howie Hawkins, Libertarian Larry Sharpe and former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, an independent, say they'll participate in the League of Women Voters' event scheduled for Thursday.
Democratic nominee Cuomo, however, hasn't responded to the invitation from the League. There's still time for Cuomo to accept, and given recent events that remains a possibility.
Cuomo debated Molinaro in a two-man debate last week in Manhattan. He agreed to participate in the exchange only 24 hours beforehand. The hour-long, televised debate was a frequently childish affair, with Cuomo frequently interrupting Molinaro with taunts as the Republican struggled to get a word in.
"In normal state with normal governors, several one-on-one debates between incumbent governors and their major party challenger regularly occur," Molinaro said. "But here in New York we have Andrew Cuomo who truly thinks rules and laws don't apply to him."
Cuomo has said he sees little reason to debate Molinaro, who he says has run a campaign void of substance and heavy on conservative ideology. A Cuomo campaign spokeswoman said Friday that instead of debating Molinaro and the other candidates, the governor would be "communicating directly with the people" as the campaign comes to a close.
With a huge lead in the polls and in fundraising Cuomo has little to gain politically by appearing on a stage with his rivals. Molinaro, meanwhile, needs all the exposure he can get, with a recent poll showing he remains largely unknown to nearly half of New Yorkers.
MILANO BACKS CUOMO
The Women's Equality Party, which Cuomo created four years ago, released an ad featuring Alyssa Milano criticizing Molinaro for votes he took as a state lawmaker.
In the ad, the actor and #MeToo movement leader cited Molinaro's votes against bills that would have made it easier to seize firearms from domestic abusers and banned the practice of shackling pregnant inmates when they give birth.
"No, we're not talking about a distant figure from an ugly past. We're talking about the current Republican candidate for governor, Marc Molinaro," she says in the ad.
UPSTATE LEFT OUT
Tuesday's debate, on WCBS-TV, had a decidedly downstate focus, with only one question focused on an upstate issue: state subsidies for a potential new stadium for the Buffalo Bills.
The moderators did have time to ask the candidates to name their favorite type of sausage, however, as well as their favorite song.
Not surprisingly, the dearth of questions about issues directly impacting half of the state left some groups that advocate for upstate feeling left out, and demanding a second debate focused entirely on the region that, depending on who you ask, starts somewhere north of New York City.
"There was no specific discussion about upstate's declining population, the state's job-killing business climate or crumbling local roads and bridges," said Michael Kracker, director of the group Unshackle Upstate. "Ignoring the very real concerns of millions of Upstate taxpayers is completely unacceptable."
GOP SLAMS EXXON MOBIL SUIT
Underwood sued the Texas energy giant last week, alleging that it misled investors about the risks that climate change poses to its operation. The state's pension system is among its investors.
"Exxon built a facade to deceive investors into believing that the company was managing the risks of climate change regulation to its business when, in fact, it was intentionally and systematically underestimating or ignoring them, contrary to its public representations," Underwood said in a statement.
The company has dismissed the lawsuit as baseless and meritless, and Republicans quickly followed suit. State Republican Party spokeswoman Jessica Proud on Friday accused Underwood of using the suit to whip up Democratic outrage before the election.
"This is nothing more than a cynical get-out-the-vote ploy for the Democratic Party and a waste of taxpayer dollars," she said in an email.
The complaint asks for an order requiring Exxon to correct past misrepresentations and provide restitution to shareholders. Two of New York's public pension funds hold Exxon shares with a combined value of about $1.5 billion, according to Underwood.