Readers Write: Why only one Hochul-Zeldin debate for governor?

Readers Write: Why only one Hochul-Zeldin debate for governor?

Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul is following the infamous Rose Garden Strategy by ignoring underdog Republican challenger Congressman Lee Zeldin and refusing to schedule a series of public debates between now and Election Day. She did the same for the Democratic Primary by only participating in two debates at the 11th hour with Congressman Tom Suozzi and NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

With less than five weeks to go, Hochul’s surrogates will continue to run out the clock in negotiations. They have the goal of agreeing to one or two debates, knowing full well that her election is already preordained. She has only agreed to one debate. on Oct. 25 sponsored by NY1 Spectrum News. Just look at the voter affiliations and campaign funds. Statewide voter enrollment numbers and fund raising clearly favor Hochul.

Based upon the state Board of Elections, registration figures for active voters as of Feb. 21, 2022, there are a total of 11,905,886 active voters. Democrats outnumber Republicans 5,929,315 to 2,645,799 with 152,669 Conservative, 45,093 Working Families, 419,193 Other Political Party and 2,713,757 Blank (No Party Selected) active registered voters.

The numbers make it very difficult for Republicans to elect anyone to public office, Albany’s infamous State Street lobbyists, who represent various special interest groups, will continue “Pay for Play” by providing more campaign contributions to Hochul. It is an investment to stay on her good side. They know that as governor, she will continue returning the favors and will deliver over the next four years.

All incumbent elected officials, be they Democrat or Republican on the city, state or federal level, start out with many advantages not available to challengers. During any term of public office, incumbents have daily television, radio and newspaper exposure, press conferences, newsletters, guest columns in newspapers, letters to the editor and speaking engagements on a regular basis. Don’t forget the perks of public office, including announcements of member items (many of which taxpayers consider local pork-barrel projects). These are used to raise name recognition and assist in greasing the wheels of re-election.

Up until the 1980s, both Democratic and Republican candidates participated in numerous television and newspaper editorial board debates. Voters could look beyond the 30- or 60-second TV commercial sound bites to learn about real views and issues among the candidates.

Those candidates who refused to participate in these debates would be subject to critical newspaper editorials. They ended up losing any chance of newspaper endorsements and usually went down to defeat in either the primary or general election.

In the 1980s, a new Rose Garden Strategy emerged. Incumbents or officially designated incumbent candidates of both parties refused to debate lesser-known, under-funded opponents in either the primary or general election. They had no interest in providing a free forum for challengers to get their message directly out to voters. Too many newspapers and good government groups failed to speak up and shame these incumbents into participating in open forums and debates.

They don’t want to provide their respective unknown and under-financed opponents with free forums to explain their positions on issues of the day. It is newspapers that provide a forum at no charge. This affords under-financed and lesser-known candidates a chance to communicate their views on issues of the day to voters.

Why not participate in debates sponsored by each of NYC and Long Island daily newspapers and television stations? The New York Daily News, Post, Newsday, Times, Wall Street Journal and Staten Island Advance would all be happy to host a debate. Ditto for upstate newspapers and television stations in Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Ithica, Poughkeepsie, Rochester, Syracuse and Watertown. Let us hope that enlightened newspapers such as Blank Media Publications will call for an end of incumbents’ use of the infamous Rose Garden Strategy in future elections. Intelligent voters deserve frequent debates prior to the general election as opposed to canned TV commercials.

If Hochul continues to refuse to participate in series of debates open to full media coverage with her underdog Republican challenger Zeldin, she should be subject to critical newspaper editorials. Hochul should forfeit any chance of endorsements by media outlets.

Larry Penner

Great Neck

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