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Two NY-21 debates set for next week; third one officially off

(Cobb photo by the Enterprise, Stefanik photo provided)

The campaign of U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, on Wednesday again criticized Democratic challenger Tedra Cobb for not taking part in a debate that was going to be hosted by Spectrum News next week.

Cobb’s campaign fired back, saying that they never agreed to participate in the event.

The candidates will face off in debates on Monday at WWNY-TV in Watertown and at WPTZ-TV in Plattsburgh on Wednesday. A third debate was to take place on Oct. 23 at Spectrum News in Albany.

Cobb on Thursday announced that she had tested negative for COVID-19 and called on Stefanik to get a test before the two debates. Stefanik’s campaign said she will be tested ahead of the debate and will release her results. She has been tested multiple times and been negative, the campaign said.

The original plan was for there to be three debates in the race for New York’s 21st Congressional District seat. The Stefanik campaign had announced the schedule on Aug. 12 and said both candidates had agreed to participate.

However, the Cobb campaign said after Stefanik’s announcement that there was no commitment by Cobb to take part.

Neither campaign would provide any proof or additional information about whether there was any written or verbal agreement to participate in the Spectrum debate, or if there were just informal talks but no contract.

When asked by The Post-Star to provide evidence that Cobb backed out of the debate, Stefanik’s campaign spokeswoman Maddie Anderson told a reporter to contact Spectrum News.

Nick Cowdrey, news director at Spectrum News, confirmed in an email Wednesday that the debate is not happening. However, he did not return a follow-up email or phone call answering follow-up questions about whether both candidates had formally agreed to participate.

Stefanik’s camp on Wednesday said it was “unacceptable and a disgrace” that Cobb was skipping the most-watched debate and the only one televised district-wide.

“Voters deserve to see both candidates publicly debate on issues important to the North Country, and it’s unfortunate and offensive that Tedra Cobb is depriving them of the opportunity to see the clear choice in this race,” said Anderson, of the Stefanik campaign, in a news release.

Stefanik’s campaign added that it is an example of Cobb hiding her positions from voters, including why she has changed her position on supporting Medicare for All and her support for banning assault weapons.

When asked about Stefanik’s latest attack, the Cobb campaign cited its previous comments that it was not participating in the debate because Stefanik has received $10,000 from Charter Communications, the parent company of Spectrum News, during this election cycle. Charter Communications also has donated $10,000 to Stefanik’s E-PAC, which raises money to get Republican women elected to public office.

Cobb’s campaign manager, Gabie Hart, provided the same statement as she did in August, saying that Stefanik was dodging an opportunity to have a debate at Mountain Lake PBS, which would be recorded and freely accessible on YouTube, Facebook, public radio and the station’s website.

“It’s unfortunate that Stefanik will not agree to the third debate without corporate sponsorship,” Hart said in an email.

Stefanik’s camp said previously that she would not do a debate at Mountain Lake PBS because it would mean that there would be more than one debate in the Plattsburgh media market. Stefanik wanted one debate in each of the Albany, Plattsburgh and Watertown markets.

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