UPDATED: Governor Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon go head to head


Photos courtesy of Flickr/MTAPhotos and Cynthia for New York.

Samantha Unger

Months after offers to debate against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon were ignored, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has agreed to face Nixon at last. The pair is set to debate at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York on August 29. This debate marks Cuomo’s first one-on-one debate in 12 years. He also did not agree to debate his challenger, Zephyr Teachout, for the Democratic nomination in 2014.

After Nixon’s remarks regarding Cuomo’s aversion to debates, suggesting the reason he did not want to meet with Nixon was out of fear of facing her, the incumbent’s committee released a newsletter accepting the request at the bottom.

Nixon, known for her role in Sex in the City and her strives in public education and women’s health activism, announced she was running for governor of New York via Twitter in March. The televised debate will be an hour long and air on CBS stations as well as 1010 WINS Radio. It will occur two weeks before Primary Day on Sept. 13.

UPDATE: A summary of the debate appears below.

The Democratic gubernatorial debate last Wednesday between incumbent governor Andrew Cuomo and activist/actress Cynthia Nixon involved interruptions by both candidates, accusations, calls for tax releases, and a strongly-shared interest in bettering the state of New York.

In the introductory session, first-time political candidate Nixon was asked why voters should be confident in her skills and experience to govern the state. She answered that her experience comes from her background in activism as a part of Fight Back NY and her work towards securing marriage equality and education rights.

Governor Cuomo, an outspoken critic of President Trump, began the debate by stating that
“Trump is the main threat to New York,” and he spoke of his condemnation of mass deportations. Cuomo then promised he would not run for president if re-elected to office, as he believes his obligation and duty lie in protecting the state rather than running a presidential campaign.

The pair also debated about the MTA and public transportation, as well as infrastructure issues within the state. When Cuomo was asked if he was planning to delay the future fare hike and instead let the state pick up the $320 million cost of advancement, he declined, claiming, “The state can’t fund the MTA without help from the city.” Instead, he would be willing to split the cost 50/50 with New York City. Although passing the financial responsibility over to the state would ensure faster improvements, Cuomo said, “we have to be real and truthful if we want progress.” He ultimately decided that evening out the cost would be the most beneficial decision for both the city and the state.

Nixon then chimed in, stating that the MTA has the worst on-time record for any public transportation service in the nation. She also accused Cuomo of using “the MTA like an ATM” and argued that he has done little to improve the public transportation services in his years as governor.

“She lives in the world of fiction, I live in the world of fact”

-Cuomo on Nixon

The panel later discussed Nixon’s plans for single-payer healthcare or Medicare for all. If elected governor, Nixon will strive to make statewide Medicare a reality. However, the New York tax rate would also see a large increase, leaving the tax burden to double. While single-payer healthcare seems ideal, Cuomo added, the projected cost of the transition is out of budget, and no other city has been able to do it successfully. Long-term rewards are feasible, but the short-term effect that the transition will cause may be detrimental to the economic health of the state.

As Nixon has made her plan to legalize marijuana clear from the start of her campaign, she was asked what she would say to a parent trying to keep their child away from drugs. She responded that though the legalization would be strictly for adults, her priorities with the legalization lie more in solving a racial justice issue than other drug-related concerns. As 80% of marijuana-related arrests in New York are African Americans/Latinos, according to Nixon, she says she is determined to prioritize those communities and aid in correcting the damage drug arrests have caused.

The debate finished off with a series of short answer questions, both Nixon and Cuomo declining to answer if they would ask for NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s endorsement. In addition, Nixon, who identifies as a Democratic Socialist, was asked if she would be willing to turn her $179,000 salary to the state. She strongly agreed, stating she would be “fine with just a dollar.”

This was the first debate between the two Democratic gubernatorial candidates, just in time for primary day on September 13th, which will see one candidate secure the Democratic nomination.