Andrew Cuomo and Marc Molinaro

Ricky Flores/The Journal News via USA TODAY NETWORK; Peter Haskell/WCBS 880

It's On: Molinaro, Cuomo To Face Off In Debate Tuesday

October 22, 2018 - 4:41 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- The debate over the debate in the New York governor's race is over.

After days of back and forth, voters will get to see Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Republican challenger, Marc Molinaro, address the issues in a moderated one-on-one debate that will air Tuesday night on WCBS Newsradio 880 and WCBS-TV.

The in-person debate will be taped Tuesday afternoon and broadcast at 7 p.m. on both WCBS 880 and WCBS-TV. It will be moderated by WCBS-TV's Marcia Kramer along with WCBS 880's Rich Lamb.

After Molinaro announced Monday morning that he "happily accepts the CBS debate," a Cuomo campaign spokesperson released a statement saying, "After days of ducking the debate, we’re glad Marc Molinaro has finally agreed. See you tomorrow."

The debate tug of war that began on WCBS 880 Friday morning continued all weekend.

Cuomo first offered to take on Molinaro Saturday morning on WCBS Newsradio 880 but Molinaro rejected the idea, saying he wanted it held on a weekday, televised and available to the entire state.

On Sunday, the radio station renewed its invitation to bring the candidates together for an hourlong, "in-studio" forum Tuesday morning with cameras providing a video feed.

Again, Cuomo accepted, Molinaro refused. 

"Last week Gov Cuomo accepted a WCBS880 radio debate offer -Molinaro refused, saying he wanted it in person with Marcia Kramer and a TV camera. As WCBS880 has now met all of Molinaro’s demands, we accept and expect him to be there," Cuomo's campaign spokesperson Dani Lever tweeted.

But Molinaro tweeted saying the governor "is again misleading NYers and unwilling to agree to a real debate that will give an opportunity for all NYers to participate. This has now devolved into a sad statement for our state and democracy. Stop the mockery and debate me in front of all voters. Stop hiding!"

The agreed upon terms were sent to both candidates late Sunday night. The debate will be held two weeks before voters head to the polls.

Molinaro said this is a victory for all New Yorkers.

"The average voter should see the two men who want to lead this state face to face debating, discussing, asking questions and answering them," Molinaro said.

In his announcement, Molinaro noted the power of the media, including the New York Post's front page photo of the governor in a chicken suit, in making the debate happen.

"It is as much your job as it is ours to push elected officials, in particular incumbents to come before the public and engage in an open dialog," Molinaro said.

Molinaro is now pushing for two additional debates to be held in Buffalo and the Southern Tier.

"One televised debate isn't enough, we are going to continue to demand that the governor participate in debates across the state of New York," Molinaro said. "It's important to democracy, it's important to the state of New York and it's important for voters to hear what it is we believe and how it is we might lead the state of New York."

"Debates are not about the incumbents, in fact elections are not about the candidates, they're about the voters and upstate New York voters have been left behind," Molinaro added.

Cuomo is far ahead of Molinaro in the polls, but Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, says that shouldn't come as a great surprise.

"You're talking at about an incumbent governor, Andrew Cuomo, who has good popularity. He's running against a relatively unknown, who's under-financed in an election that is at worst case a slight blue wave and best case for the Democrats a very substantial blue wave and in New York, of course, where you have such a huge Democratic registration advantage to begin with, the Republicans are facing a very uphill fight just in terms of trying to level the playing field let alone try to actually win," Miringoff said.

And Miringoff believes the debate over the debate is not likely to swing public opinion.

"The oddity of all this is the debate over the debates never really gets or costs anybody a whole bunch of votes. These are sort of campaigns jabbing with each other for for their own egos and to try to just you know get one up on their opposition," Miringoff said. "You're talking about a strong front runner and an unknown challenger, the challenger needs the debate more than the front runner; the challenger needs to land some substantial punches to even get some attention. If you're Andrew Cuomo the best thing you want is for the next morning for no one to be talking about anything that happened at the debate."

Miringoff said he expects when Cuomo and Molinaro meet face to face, there will be a lot of give and take but there likely won't be any "big knockdown punches."

Meanwhile, the League of Women Voters is set to host Molinaro, as well as independent candidate Stephanie Miner, the Green Party's Howie Hawkins and Libertarian Larry Sharpe at a debate planned in Albany during the last week of the month. Cuomo has not yet agreed to participate.

Also, in the New York State U.S. Senate race, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has agreed to debate her Republican opponent Chele Farley. It will be hosted by WABC-TV on Thursday at 1:30 p.m.