State Senator Eric Schneiderman and Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice opted not to attend a debate in Rochester last night, giving the other three attendees a chance to take a few whacks at the presumed front-runners, and to tout their own credentials in a play for the up-for-grabs upstate voters.
“I’m running to be attorney general of the entire state of New York,” noted Sean Coffey in his opening remarks. “Not Manhattan. Not Long Island. The entire state of New York.”
Manhattan and Long Island are, of course, the respective home bases of Schneiderman and Rice–where each has locked up key institutional support and is expected to do well.
“I’m proud that my campaign has poured resources into western New York and upstate New York, and I’ve been up here every week,” said Coffey, who is said to be investing heavily in an upstate get-out-the-vote operation. “I intend to represent all of you who are listening, not just pockets of downstate.”
Eric Dinallo–who overwhelmingly won the party’s rural straw poll in the spring–also cited his upstate focus, which includes a pledge to put an attorney from the AG’s office in each of the state’s 62 counties.
“When we started this campaign a year ago, I set out to visit every county of this state, campaign and visit in every county and we did that,” he said. (It was Dinallo’s impassioned upstate supporters who helped force a decision at the state convention to put all five candidates on the ballot, without having to collect petitions.)
Assemblyman Richard Brodsky mostly stuck to his theme of transforming the office to focus on kitchen table issues in his opening remarks, but took a swipe at the no-shows even before the debate began. “You know as well as I do that Richards [sic] has always felt that the backbone of democracy is a well informed electorate,” wrote his finance director, Joseph Livoti, in a fundraising email to supporters. “I guess some of our opponents see this differently.”
In fairness, the long campaign has included about a dozen debates–with several more this week–and the attendance has been mostly good. And neither Schneiderman nor Rice has conceded upstate. “This desperate attack about upstate would come as some surprise to Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, who just endorsed Eric Schneiderman days ago,” said Schneiderman spokesman James Freedland in a statement that cited a string of the senator’s recent endorsements.
UPDATE: “I’m sorry that I couldn’t attend the debate in Rochester last night, due to several previous engagements that I wasn’t able to change,” Rice said through a spokesman. “I’ve enjoyed many trips to Rochester — including two in the last week — and the rest of upstate, and look forward to many more. As an elected official of a large suburban county I understand the unique needs and challenges faced by New Yorkers who live everywhere in the state.” Rice encouraged upstaters to read about her plans for the region on her website.
Here’s the hour-long debate:
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