SCHENECTADY — Nearly a month ahead of the midterm elections, U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, has declined a debate invitation from The Daily Gazette.
The event, proposed to feature Tonko and Republican challenger Liz Joy, was initially scheduled for Oct. 19 at Proctors in Schenectady at 7 p.m. Joy, who has been eager for more debate time with the Democrat incumbent over the past two months, accepted the invitation on Sept. 29.
Tonko and Joy are currently expected to participate in one faceoff on WMHT-TV later in October.
“Congressman Tonko looks forward to the debate he has already accepted on Oct. 27 to further demonstrate to voters his record on growing the Capital Region economy, fighting for reproductive rights and repairing democracy after his opponent organized a bus trip to the Jan. 6 insurrection,” said Tonko campaign spokesman Sean Magers.
Daily Gazette Editor Miles Reed was due to moderate the debate, with questions being posed by a panel of four other journalists from across the region.
The newly redrawn 20th Congressional District includes all of Schenectady, Saratoga and Albany counties, and part of Rensselaer County including Troy. As a result of the redistricting earlier this year the district lost Montgomery County and gained the northern half of Saratoga County.
Joy has assailed Tonko in the past for turning down 20th Congressional District debates, including an event with business leaders earlier in the election. Tonko’s campaign recently turned down the Duanesburg-based group’s call for a debate.
The Republican hopeful has characterized the incumbent bowing out of some debates as an escape from accountability.
“It’s disgraceful that a career politician since 1976, Paul Tonko, refuses to accommodate the request of The Daily Gazette,” Joy said.
Joy is a self-described pro-law-enforcement candidate. Squaring off against Tonko for the second time, Joy is currently running on a platform of stopping crime, tightening border security and reducing inflation.
“Paul Tonko deserves to be fired on Nov. 8,” Joy said. “And the residents of the 20th Congressional District deserve a representative that will listen to them, that will be accountable to them, and that will participate in the media requests for fair and public debates.”
Tonko has participated in a handful of debates since running for Congress against Republican James Buhrmaster in 2008. So far, the seasoned politician has only faced off against Joy once, via a Zoom forum in 2020.