Molinaro proposes commission to require and regulate debates in major statewide races

Marc Molinaro
GOP Candidate Marc Molinaro. Photo by David Livshin and Justin Varuzzo

New York gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro today proposed that an independent debate commission for statewide political races be formed in New York state to guarantee that voters have ample opportunity to learn the positions of primary and general election candidates.

Molinaro proposed that such a commission be comprised of recognized good government organization leaders and rotating newspaper editorial board editors and television and radio station managers.

“Simon and Garfunkel’s New York, where we’re ‘going to the candidates’ debate’, feels like 100 years ago now, and we should consider that a national embarrassment,” Molinaro, the Dutchess County Executive said. “When it comes to gubernatorial debates, in particular, they’re practically non-existent in the Empire State today. The incumbent sets the rules, and voters are lucky if they get a single chance to see the major party candidates one-on-one. It’s a disgrace, but we can do something about it as a state.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has turned down all but one debate in his ongoing primary with Cynthia Nixon, and he allowed only one televised debate with his 2014 Republican challenger — demanding that the debate be limited to one hour and include minor party candidates. Governor George Pataki, who Molinaro considers a friend and mentor, held no debates one year, and Governor Mario Cuomo ducked his 1986 Republican challenger Andy O’Rourke so famously that Mr. O’Rourke began carrying around a cardboard cut-out of Cuomo, who eventually relented to a single debate.

Molinaro says has never ducked a debate, appearing as an incumbent even when a challenger couldn’t or wouldn’t show up.

“This proposal is about our better angels, not just this year’s statewide races,” Molinaro continued. “Incumbents carry tremendous advantages, but they also have an obligation to participate in the democratic process — at least where I come from. A New York State Debate Commission makes sense; it would establish a uniform debate policy for our statewide races, which could only improve the democratic process here. More debate, not less, will improve the quality of our leaders and our governments.”