Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his Democratic primary challenger, Cynthia Nixon, squared off in the only debate before the Sept. 13 election in a testy and contentious hour long discussion broadcast by CBS2 in New York City from Hofstra University on Long Island on Wednesday night.
The choice, according to Nixon and Cuomo, is between who is more qualified to run New York state, versus the desire for change.
Nixon, who is running to the left of Cuomo on issues like single-payer health care, taxing the wealthy and cleaning up corruption, says a candidate’s previous years in office doesn’t always count.
“I think that experience doesn’t mean that much if you’re not actually good at governing,” Nixon said.
Nixon repeatedly attempted to make the discussion about Cuomo’s record. The governor at times tried to make the debate about President Donald Trump.
“Today you have to fight Donald Trump, who is the main risk to the state of New York,” Cuomo said. “The first line of defense is New York, and the governor leads that fight and you have to know how to do it.”
Nixon differed with Cuomo’s assessment. She referred to an incident earlier in August, when Cuomo said in a speech that America “was never great,” and later clarified his comments to say he has always believed the nation is great.
“Donald Trump did tweet at you about whether or not America is great, and you backed down pretty quickly,” Nixon said. “You stood up to him about as well as Trump stood up to Putin.”
Cuomo countered that Nixon, who says she is the more progressive candidate, is really the “corporate Democrat” in the race, because the actor oversees an "S" corporation to manage her earnings, which totaled over $1 million last year. And he accused Nixon of asking for favors from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, after she donated money to his campaign.
“You are a corporation,” Cuomo said to Nixon.
“I am a person,” Nixon replied.
Nixon says she did not donate money, and the request she made was for city helicopters to not fly over performances of Shakespeare in the Park.
The two sparred over who can better fix the subway system, reform campaign financing to limit big-money donors, and who released more details of their past tax returns. And they often bickered with one another.
“Can you stop interrupting?” Cuomo said at one point, as Nixon tried to speak over him.
“Can you stop lying?” Nixon countered.
“Yeah, as soon as you do,” Cuomo responded.
Both want to legalize marijuana but disagree on whether public worker should be allowed to strike. Nixon says yes, Cuomo says it’s a “terrible idea.”
Cuomo also pledged, if re-elected, that he would serve out the entire four years. The governor has been talked about as a potential presidential candidate in 2020.
He said the only caveat is “if God strikes me dead.”
And Nixon says if she’s elected governor, she won’t take a salary.