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Editorial: Governor's refusal to debate disrespects voters

Editorial: Governor's refusal to debate disrespects voters

What is Cuomo afraid of?
Editorial: Governor's refusal to debate disrespects voters
Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a news conference the day after he won the Democratic nomination, in New York, Sept. 14, 2018.
Photographer: Jeenah Moon/The New York Times

On its front page Thursday, the New York Post went for the low-hanging fruit to illustrate Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s refusal to participate in debates with his opponents.

The paper had him portrayed wearing a chicken suit to accompany the headline: “What are you afraid of, Gov?” (Not very original, but it makes their point.)

Actually, if the governor was afraid of debating his opponents for fear he couldn’t handle himself or deflect their criticisms, that would actually be understandable.

But Cuomo has never had any issue mocking and humiliating his opponents and countering criticism.

Just watch how he handles tough questions from reporters. He turns their questions back on them to make it seem like they’re uninformed, stupid and out of line, in much the same way Donald Trump does.

After seven-plus years in office, Gov. Cuomo has demonstrated that he can handle himself in a scrap. So he’s got nothing to fear from a debate, and therefore no reason to be “chicken.”

No, his refusal to debate is not as simple as the governor being afraid. It’s actually much worse.

By not giving citizens the opportunity to observe him defending his record against the candidates who share a public ballot with him, he’s demonstrating not only his disdain and disrespect for his opponents, but disdain and disrespect for the electoral process and voters.

Why should he expose himself to questions about his record when he knows that people are going to re-elect him anyway? 

The polls are in his favor. The political makeup of the state is in his favor. Incumbency is in his favor. He has more campaign money than all of his opponents combined. Why should he go on TV and expose himself to criticism from people looking to take his job?

It’s not because he thinks defending his record is going to make him lose.

It’s because he thinks he doesn’t have to. 

He doesn’t think he owes us an explanation for why the upstate economy is still struggling.

Or why the New York City transit system is falling apart under his watch.

Or why, after nearly two terms, our taxes are still so high and our business climate is still so low. Why so many people in his administration have gotten into trouble with the law and why he hasn’t been able to pass legislation to curb government corruption.

When a politician gets to the point where he believes he’s not answerable to the people who put him in office, he’s crossed a dangerous line.

These are questions the leader of our state government has an obligation to answer — not for the benefit of his opponents, but for the benefit of the voters, his constituents, who are going to the polls less than three weeks from now.

Maybe fear actually is his motivating factor. Not fear of losing the election. But fear of his own answers.

Debate, governor. Show us we’re wrong.

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