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Cuomo, Astorino camps spar again over debates

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he is open to

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he is open to two debates. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Mario Tama

Democrat Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's campaign said Saturday he is willing to participate in two general election debates -- an offer rejected as "insulting to the people of New York State" by his Republican foe, Rob Astorino.

Cuomo's spokesman said the governor "has accepted invitations to two debates": a one-on-one encounter with Astorino in New York City that wouldn't be televised and a four-way Buffalo debate that would also include the nominees from the Green and Libertarian parties, Howie Hawkins and Mike McDermott.

"Governor Cuomo is looking forward to a robust discussion of ideas at both debates and we want to thank the sponsors for making these events possible," Cuomo campaign spokesman Matt Wing said in a statement.

The governor has been accused by rivals of avoiding them. He refused to debate his primary challenger, law professor Zephyr Teachout.

Astorino's spokeswoman Jessica Proud ridiculed the offer, which she said was decided unilaterally by the Cuomo campaign without consulting Astorino's camp.

In a statement, she said: "This is more games from Andrew Cuomo. Despite their claims, there have been no negotiations between the campaigns. We have called for at least one televised debate between the two major party candidates, as is custom in every election from President of the United States on down."

Wing declined to answer questions about the debates beyond his campaign's news release, and would not address the Astorino campaign's complaints.

The upstate debate is sponsored by the public radio station WBFO, public television station WNED and The Buffalo News. The debate in New York City is sponsored by WNYC New York Public Radio and The Wall Street Journal.

When Cuomo ran for governor in 2010, he agreed to one general election debate with seven candidates on the ballot present, including minor party candidates such as the self-described Manhattan madam Krisen Davis, a figure in the prostitution scandal that felled Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

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