Rep. John Faso has twice declined to debate democratic candidate Antonio Delgado because Green Party candidate Steve Greenfield would not be included in the debates.
Faso, a first-term Republican congressman, is defending his seat from Delgado in a tight race to see who will represent the northern Hudson Valley and Catskills. Steve Greenfield has not yet made a splash in the election, raising little money and holding limited campaign events, but democrats still worry he could siphon votes from Delgado’s progressive base.
Faso would only agree to the WMHT debate if all candidates were invited, said Matt Ryan, the managing editor of NY Now, one of WMHT’s programs.
WMHT sent out invitations to the Faso and Delgado campaigns directly after the June 26 Democratic Primary, Ryan said.
“We heard back from the Delgado camp probably about a month later, and I didn’t hear back from the Faso campaign until early August, and then we had a conversation a few days ago as well [where the Faso campaign] reiterated that they wanted everyone invited,” he said.
The Greenfield campaign did not meet the “long-standing guidelines” for being in the station’s debates, which ascertain the newsworthiness of a candidate, he added.
Campaigns must file their campaign contributions with the Federal Election Commission once they reach $5,000, but Greenfield has not done so, suggesting he has not reached this threshold. By comparison, Delgado has raised $2.8 million through the end of June, and Faso has raised $2.3 million, according to their latest FEC filings.
Ryan said Greenfield was not “actively campaigning.”
“He’s just not an active campaign in our judgement of newsworthiness,” Ryan said.
Delgado spokeswoman Melissa Toufanian said Faso also turned down a debate open to candidates polling above 5 percent — a threshold that would exclude Greenfield, resulting in a one-on-one matchup — though a spokesperson for the outlet declined comment. The Faso campaign did not deny the debate was proposed.
However, Faso has participated in a one-on-one forum with Delgado, and two debates have been scheduled with all three candidates.
The forum (part 1, part 2) was held by the New York League of Conservation Voters in Callicoon, Sullivan County Aug. 29, but did not have the back-and-forth format of a debate, instead separately giving both candidates 45 minutes to respond to questions.
The two multi-candidate debates already scheduled are Sept. 20, hosted by the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce, and Oct. 22, hosted by NPR affiliate WAMC, according to Faso campaign spokesman Joe Gierut.
The Faso campaign is committed to engaging in debates involving all candidates on the ballot, according to Gierut.
“The real question is why won’t Antonio Delgado support inclusion of the official New York State recognized Green Party candidate Steve Greenfield in each of the debates,” he said.
A statement released by the Delgado campaign on the issue includes a letter sent by Faso to Delgado challenging the democrat “to join our fellow candidates and me to several debates this fall.” The Faso campaign’s offer to engage in multi-candidate debates still stands, according to Gierut.
Delgado released a statement saying Faso “will only debate on his own terms, just like he will only hold town halls on his own terms.”
“He forgets that the job is not about him, it’s about the people,” the statement continues. “This is yet another cynical dodge from an absentee congressman who has repeatedly refused to address the issues that are critical to the people in our district.
Activists are worried Greenfield, whose views fall left of Delgado’s, could split the progressive vote and hand victory to Faso, much like Green Party candidate Ralph Nader split the progressive vote in the 2000 presidential election between democrat Al Gore and George W. Bush, arguably handing Bush the election.
In the only independent poll released to date, Faso is leading Delgado by 5 points. Greenfield was not included in the poll.
The article has been updated to clarify Spectrum proposed a debate for candidates polling above five percent, a threshold that would exclude Steve Greenfield and leave only Faso and Delgado, as opposed to proposing a debate open to only two candidates.
The article has been updated to include Spectrum declining comment.