Let’s debate the current debate about debating.
If you are paying attention to the upcoming elections in New York state, that actually makes sense in a way.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is doing all he can to avoid engaging in a debate with his Republican opponent, Marc Molinaro, and others. While this tactic has generated many an exasperated response about Cuomo’s arrogance and anti-democratic instincts, it is neither new nor novel.
For decades front runners with the kinds of advantages that Cuomo has in name recognition, fund raising and polling margins have avoided debating any lesser known, underfunded and badly trailing opponents.
It makes sense. A debate helps those who are not known to get known. And it exposes the leading candidate to the possibility of a self-inflicted wound from a glib answer, poor phrasing or any other hint of vulnerability.
Cuomo is very aware of that given his own self-inflicted wound earlier this year with comments about America not being that great, a sentiment that nobody forced him to share. If he does that poorly while ad-libbing, no wonder he is reluctant to engage an opponent.
The other end-of-campaign staple is the endorsement, whether from party colleagues, organizations or newspapers. Nobody knows if endorsements matter mostly because they are usually predictable. If one candidate is the darling of the NRA, the other is likely to be the obvious choice for Planned Parenthood. Long before we acknowledged that we had divided ourselves into warring tribes, endorsements offered hints to help undecided or, more likely, uninformed voters.
Not all newspaper endorsements are equal, as illustrated by the ones in the New York Post this week concerning New York’s congressional delegation. The Post, like its Rupert Murdoch brethren The Wall Street Journal and Fox News, is all for anybody who is all for President Trump. But even the Post has some limits which it ran into in the seat representing much of Buffalo.
The lone Democrat to get the Post’s backing was Nate McMurray. “Not that we find him so impressive,” the endorsement noted, but he is running against an incumbent under federal indictment for securities fraud and insider trading.
So if you can’t really learn much from endorsements and if candidates are reluctant to debate, how do you make an informed decision? For those in this region there is hope because candidates in four major races, two for the state Senate and two for the House of Representatives, have agreed to meet in debates sponsored by The Times Herald-Record. All four races are especially important this year because they are among those determining who controls those bodies.
If you can’t show up in person, you can watch them live at recordonline.com/livedebate.
The schedule is:
• 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23: 42nd state Senate District. Middletown High School. Annie Rabbitt and Jen Metztger.
• 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24: 39th state Senate District. Ritz Theater, Newburgh. Tom Basile and James Skoufis.
• 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29: 19th Congressional District. SUNY Sullivan. John Faso and Antonio Delgado.
• 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30: 18th Congressional District. Ritz Theater. James O’Donnell and Sean Patrick Maloney.