Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his Democratic primary opponent, actress Cynthia Nixon, sparred for an hour Wednesday night at Hofstra University in Hempstead during the lone televised debate in the campaign.
While accusing each other of corruption, both candidates tried to position themselves as the most progressive before the Sept. 13 New York Democratic primary by attacking President Donald Trump’s policies and one another.
“The experience does not mean much if you’re not good at governing,” Nixon said of Cuomo, who is running for his third term.
Nixon also called Cuomo “corrupt” repeatedly, accused him of lack of transparency, and said that unlike the governor, her campaign is not financed by large corporations. Cuomo replied by attacking Nixon’s professional career, declaring that “this is real life.”
“My opponent lives in a world of fiction, I live in the real world,” said Cuomo, referring to Nixon’s acting career, most notably for starring in Sex and the City.
The personal attacks didn’t end there.
“Will you stop interrupting?” Cuomo told Nixon at one point. She shot back, “Can you stop lying?” He replied, “As soon as you do.”
As for policy issues, the candidates debated their stances on labor law, access to housing and health care.
He highlighted the mass transportation system, the subject of constant complaints by New Yorkers for the delays and daily interruptions. Cuomo admitted that the New York transit system is “falling apart,” but argued that some renovations should be a shared investment that both the state and New York City fund.
“We have train cars that are 40 years old,” he said. “It is a huge investment and needs funding from both sides.”
Nixon rejected this argument, underlining that trains are currently “slower than in 1950,” and noted that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is controlled by the state government.
“To say anything else is completely false,” said Nixon, who accused Cuomo of having “stolen millions of dollars from the MTA” to invest in other projects and having used the agency as an ATM
The legalization of marijuana was another central issue in the debate, in which both candidates favored.
While the governor recalled his administration is already working on it, Nixon went further and stated that once its use is legalized, distribution should be prioritized to the social groups most affected by the war on drugs.
The actress noted that more than 80 percent of people arrested for marijuana use in recent years were black or Hispanic, and therefore should be those who benefit most from its legalization.
“Marijuana in the state of New York has been legal in practice for whites for years, and it’s time for it to spread to others,” she said.
The debate was hosted by CBS.