It may be one of the closest races for Congress in the country: The battle for the House in the new 24th Congressional District in Central New York. YNN's Bill Carey says in the closing days of the campaign, there are rising questions about debates and the decision by one candidate to forego most of the sessions with his fellow candidates.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- A familiar sight this election season. A town hall meeting with candidates for Congress answering voter questions. Almost all of the candidates in the 24th Congressional District. Republican incumbent Ann Marie Buerkle was there. So too was Green party candidate Ursula Rozum. But another familiar sight has become the empty chair left for democrat Dan Maffei.
As has been the case with other of these forums at town hall meetings, Dan Maffei was not there. Instead, he was at a union hall in DeWitt.
Just a week after former President Bill Clinton came stumping for the Maffei effort, the former congressman was joined by the sitting Governor of New York.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “Ladies and gentlemen, you work every day from now until Election Day and you're going to have a great new congressman in congressman Dan Maffei.”
“He can have all the important people he wants come in and support him, but if he is too unwilling and unable to stand up for the people who live here and talk about his position on the issues, I think he's going to have to pay that price on November the 6th,” Buerkle said.
Republicans have begun to make an issue of Maffei's refusal to take part in more joint appearances and debates. The Syracuse Post Standard had the three candidates in for a discussion this week and their account says Maffei came close to walking out after being challenged by Buerkle.
The Green party candidate, who has shown for every forum, says Maffei is letting people down.
Rozum said, “Maffei is missing an opportunity to show us that he is willing to stand up to the untruths that Ann Marie Buerkle perpetuates, whether it's climate change, for example, or whether it's the myth that trickledown economics and tax cuts for the rich actually create jobs.”
Buerkle said, “He doesn't show up. And if that's how he's going to represent the people of this district, they should be concerned.”
Maffei's campaign has yet to budge on the issue. They believe they are still getting their message through, debates or no debates.
“We will get Central New York that fair shot. We will get the middle class that fair shot. We'll get women the fair shot. We will get small businesses that fair shot. We will get workers the fair shot. And we will succeed as Central New Yorkers as we never have before,” Maffei said.
And the next debate in the race for the 24th will air this Monday night, right here on YNN. The debate, scheduled for 7 p.m., is sponsored by the Campbell Public Affairs Institute at SU. Republican Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle and Green Party candidate Ursula Rozum will be there. Democrat Dan Maffei has declined our invitation so far, citing concerns about the format. A podium will be set up and available for Maffei, should he change his mind.