- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s two main election rivals repeated their call for debates Friday - though they disagree on who should participate.

Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins says Friday that he should be included in debates along with Cuomo and the Republican candidate, Westchester County executive Rob Astorino. He pointed to recent Siena College polls in two congressional districts that show he’s gaining ground.

“We shouldn’t limit debates to the candidates of the wealthy and special interests,” Hawkins said. “By any reasonable fair and objective criteria, I should be included in debates.”

Astorino, the Westchester County executive, has proposed a series of debates against Cuomo, a Democrat, to be held around the state before the November election. He has said third party candidates shouldn’t be permitted and on Friday called the race “a two-horse race.”

“Governor Cuomo is hinting he may show up (for a debate), but hinting is not enough,” Astorino said. “The taxpayers need a commitment. He would love to let the clock run out, so we must keep the pressure on and demand not just one, but eight debates between now and the election.”

Cuomo told reporters earlier this week that “I believe we will have debates” but said he’d leave it to the campaigns to work out the details.

Hawkins placed third in the 2010 race. On Friday, he cited two Siena polls of the 19th and 21st congressional districts that showed him with 12 percent of the vote - more than enough, he said, to warrant a seat at the debate. He said Cuomo’s closer-than-expected primary win shows voters want another alternative.

Cuomo refused to debate his primary opponent, law professor Zephyr Teachout. He won Tuesday’s primary 62 percent to 34 percent.

Teachout said Friday that Hawkins should be allowed to debate.

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