21st Congressional District — I’ll debate.
That’s what both Rep. Elise Stefanik R-Schuylerville and Democratic rival Matt Castelli, respectively, say. As of now, no debates have materialized between the two 21st Congressional District competitors.
“We’re happy to debate,” Stefanik said in an interview last week. “We’re in discussions with local stations, but this downstate Democrat is not able to handpick the moderator, the questions, and the terms of the debate, so absolutely we are looking forward to a debate.”
Castelli doesn’t buy it.
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“Listen, it’s no surprise to me that Stefanik is straight up lying,” Castelli responded to Stefanik’s remarks. “Which outlets has she reached out to about debates? It’s certainly not the ones who have reached out to both of our campaigns.”
Castelli’s campaign has so far accepted four debate invitations: three from North Country stations and one from a Capital Region station.
WTEN-TV of Albany, WCFE-TV of Mountain Lake, and WPTZ-TV of Plattsburgh sent out respective invites to both candidates within the last two months and haven’t yet heard back from Stefanik’s campaign as of press time. WWNY-TV of Watertown sent invites in August; Stefanik’s campaign rejected proposed debate times for this month and didn’t offer an alternative schedule.
Debate-free election cycles are unusual in recent 21st Congressional District history. Stefanik has participated in more than a dozen debates, including one primary face-off, since she first ran for Congress in 2014.
The congresswoman hasn’t faced a primary challenger on the ballot since then. Castelli, a political neophyte, had a primary challenge to his left from Whitehall native Matt Putorti.
“Matt Castelli is the only candidate in recent history of this district who did not have a primary debate,” Stefanik said. “Shame on him for hiding from a debate.”
Putorti — who later endorsed Castelli after losing by a landslide margin — was critical of his primary opponent after unsuccessfully attempting to set up debates with WCFE-TV and the League of Women Voters during the summer months. Castelli claimed that media outlets lacked the “time or the resources” to host an event.
The Whitehall primary challenger didn’t immediately respond to comment.
Stefanik’s campaign has previously claimed the debate-free August race was an act of collusion between Castelli and local media outlets.
“It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get that [debate] opportunity, but that has nothing to do with me,” Castelli said in response to Stefanik’s recent remarks. The 21st Congressional District insurgent added that Stefanik brought up past election business to distract voters from her record.
Castelli also claimed that the congresswoman fears debating him.
“The only person scared is the Downstate Democrat from Poughkeepsie who fears Election Day when he will be sent packing after he loses by a historic margin,” Degrasse said in a statement.
Partially reiterating Stefanik, DeGrasse said that the campaign is in discussions with “numerous media outlets and community organizations.” Degrasse declined to specify the campaign communications
It’s unclear whether or not any media outlets beyond WTEN-TV, WCFE-TV, WPTZ-TV, and WWNY-TV have sent out debate invites to Stefanik’s campaign.
WCFE-TV’s public television sister station, WMHT-TV of North Greenbush, decided against hosting a debate in the territory post-redistricting earlier this year, reported Dan Clark, host and managing editor of the state politics program New York Now.
Northeast Public Radio, which holds the largest broadcast footprint in the region, hasn’t sent out invitations for a Castelli-Stefanik showdown, according to News Director Ian Pickus.
WGY- 810 A.M. hasn’t sent out invites, but welcomes the possibility of hosting such an event.
Only one out of four House of Representatives races in areas abutting 21st Congressional District currently lack one or more debates scheduled.
Liz Joy, a Republican challenger in the 20th Congressional District, recently assailed Rep. Paul Tonko D-Amsterdam for not agreeing to more than one debate. As of now, the two are set to face off on WMHT-TV Oct. 27.
The congressman’s campaign two weeks ago declined an invitation to participate in a debate petitioned by a group of 102 business owners and managers. His campaign also declined another invitation sent out by the Duanesburg-based Debate NY20 Committee in 2020.
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“They don’t think the business community is worthy of answering some questions for us,” said William Park, leader of the committee.
Both Joy and Castelli are expected to face an uphill battle come November. The redrawn 21st Congressional District released in May includes new territory in Montgomery County, Schoharie County, as well as rural portions of Rensselaer County and Otsego County — all GOP-friendly areas.
Taking self-described moderate positions on reproductive rights and threats to democratic norms, Castelli believes the district is far more centrist than Stefanik, who has increasingly aligned her positions with former President Donald Trump since 2017. His campaign has repeatedly pointed to an internal poll showing the two candidates neck and neck.
Stefanik, who polling aggregation site FiveThirtyOne favors to win 99 to 100, has often claimed Castelli cloaks “far-left” positions of district voters and often references the town of Poughkeepsie native as a “downstate Democrat”, pointing out his recent connection to Upstate New York.
Castelli was born and raised in the downstate town, and later attended Siena College in Loudonville. The former CIA operative moved to Glens Falls from Washington D.C. earlier this year.
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Elise Stefanik a woman who never met or told the truth
Elise Stefanik, would have voted to overturn the 2020 election results, if it was not for the rioters storming the capital. Now she is asking for your “vote” in which she does not believe the results of 2020. Why should she be put back in office?