By Ethan Stark-Miller
Gov. Kathy Hochul agreed to participate Wednesday in two upcoming televised debates with her Democratic gubernatorial primary rivals hosted by WCBS and WNBC/Telemundo ahead of the June 28 election.
“I’m eager to participate in these debates to highlight our strong track record of getting things done for New Yorkers,” Hochul said in a release. “From day one, I’ve been focused on creating a safer, more affordable New York, where all of our fundamental rights are protected, and am excited to continue to share that message directly with voters across our state on the debate stage. As we move into the final month of the primary campaign, I look forward to keeping up our pace and momentum and defeating Republicans in November.”
Hochul’s announcement today made good on her commitment last month to participate in at least two primary debates following calls from her opponents, U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D – Long Island, Queens) and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, that Hochul debated them at least six times before primary day. The upcoming debates on WCBS and WNBC/Telemundo will be held on June 7 and 16 respectively.In a statement, Williams said by only committing to two debates out of the six he and Suozzi demanded, she’s showing that her administration can’t stand up to the scrutiny of touch questions.
“Several additional major media outlets invited us to participate in statewide syndicated debates beginning as early as two weeks from now,” Williams said. “And while I’m grateful to WCBS and WNBC/Telemundo for hosting debates, the Governor’s refusal to accept additional invitations demonstrates an aversion to transparency and an unwillingness to speak openly about her own record. This is what we have come to expect from her– another way in which she follows the Cuomo model.”
In his own statement, Suozzi sang a similar tune, saying Hochul doesn’t want to have to answer for her push to get a new $600 million stadium for the Buffalo Bills funded by taxpayers in the state budget passed last month and her choice of her disgraced ex-lieutenant governor Brian Benjamin.
“Kathy Hochul does not want to face the hard-hitting questions about her failures on addressing crime, lowering taxes, the billions she is costing taxpayers to build a new stadium in Buffalo or her disastrous choice of Brian Benjamin as her LG,” Suozzi said. “Let’s debate who has better experience. Who has a better vision? She can hold me accountable and I will hold her accountable.”
Suozzi is also once again attacking Hohcul on her handling of ever-increasing crime across the state. In a virtual press conference Wednesday morning, Suozzi repeated claims that Hochul still isn’t treating crime as a priority, even as the issue has gotten more and more out of hand in recent weeks.
In particular, Suozzi said this was reflected in the state budget process last month, where Hochul negotiated rollbacks to criminal justice reforms that didn’t include a “dangerousness standard” – which allow judges to consider the dangerousness of suspected offenders when setting bail – that he’s been pushing for. Instead, he added, Hochul sunk her political capital into her push for securing the funding for the new Buffalo Bills stadium.
“The governor had a rare opportunity to fix New York’s broken bail laws and she chose instead to build a football stadium with a billion dollars of taxpayers money,” Suozzi said. “So that’s pretty much the choice of this race and a choice before the state legislature and the governor right now. Are we going to address crime as the serious problem that it is? Or are we going to just leak a document and maybe see it happen?”
Suozzi was referring to the way Hochul’s proposal for changes to bail reform was leaked to the press instead of formally announced only a few days ahead of the April 1 budget deadline. Hochul and state legislature’s changes to criminal justice reform passed in the budget included allowing judges to set bail for offenders based on their criminal history and if they are rearrested on an outstanding desk appearance ticket.
Hochul’s campaign declined to comment on Suozzi’s attacks but referred PoliticsNY to state Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs, who fiercely pushed back on the idea that the governor isn’t doing enough to address crime.
“I think Tom Suozzi is all talk, and Kathy Hochul has been taking action,” Jacobs said. “It’s easy to stand on the sidelines, not having to get anything done and criticize the person who’s doing the work. And that’s what I think this is. And, frankly, you know, I don’t care for his insinuations about how she’s getting her job done. I think it’s just not right. She’s doing it, I think, really in an excellent fashion. And I think voters see that.”
This story first appeared on PoliticsNY.com.