David Paterson Probably Wouldn’t Have Debated Zephyr Teachout Either

David Paterson. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images
David Paterson. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Former Gov. David Paterson probably wouldn’t have debated Zephyr Teachout either, he said today as the long-shot primary challenger went to the polls against Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“I doubt it, because people can get up and say, ‘I know you killed and ate animals,’ and then what are you gonna say? But it gets all over the news,” Mr. Paterson told the Observer after an unrelated press conference.

Mr. Paterson is just one of several supporters to defend the decisions by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his running mate for the lieutenant governor’s slot, former Congresswoman Kathy Hochul, for their refusal to debate Democratic primary challengers Ms. Teachout and her running mate, Tim Wu.

Mr. Paterson said he didn’t see the logic in debating a candidate like Ms. Teachout, who he said has “nothing to lose” because of how slim her chances of victory are.

“Unless the polls show that you have a contended election, it gives, to use a better term, someone who’s not known very well, the chance to say anything about you — because they have nothing to lose,” Mr. Paterson said. “And the last thing you ever wanna do, in politics or in boxing, is get in the ring with someone who has nothing to lose.”

While Mr. Cuomo has largely stayed off the campaign trail, the lesser-known Ms. Hochul has spent recent weeks shaking hands, often alongside high-profile Democrats meant to lend the Western New York lawmaker some progressive street cred in her race against Tim Wu, a Columbia Law professor and tech expert. Mr. Wu — with the momentum of some recent newspaper endorsements  — has sought to paint Ms. Hochul as too conservative for Democratic primary voters.

But Mr. Paterson believed there would be no upsets in the governor’s race today — though he indicated Ms. Hochul’s margin of victory might be a little smaller than Mr. Cuomo’s.

“I think the governor will win easily. I think the lieutenant governor [candidate] will win,” Mr. Paterson said.

Mr. Paterson wasn’t the only one unwilling to criticize Mr. Cuomo or Ms. Hochul for failing to hold primary debates.

Though Mayor Bill de Blasio participated in scores of debates and forums in the 2013 Democratic primary for mayor, he didn’t place blame for the lack of such events on Mr. Cuomo or Ms. Hochul, whom he has endorsed and said he voted for this morning.

“I think there are some years that obviously capture people’s imagination. I think last year, there was a lot of interest,” Mr. de Blasio told the Observer. “It was a very hard-fought race and I think the forums helped, and the debates helped. I think that they’re good for democracy. So, in the end, I always prefer a year where there’s a lot of engagement.”

The mayor’s tone was a bit different from Mr. Cuomo’s, who said last week some debates are a disservice to democracy. (He’s since said he was joking.)

But Mr. de Blasio didn’t knock Mr. Cuomo for declining to debate, and instead said there’s a bigger problem in both primary and general elections: low turnout and engagement.

“In this state, we’re actually not that advanced in terms of the kind of reforms we need. We need same-day registration. We need early voting. There’s a series of things I’ll certainly be working on to reform our electoral system to make it more accessible,” Mr. de Blasio said. “So we have a bigger problem of engaging our citizens.”

David Paterson Probably Wouldn’t Have Debated Zephyr Teachout Either