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Zeldin calls out Hochul on debate delay with absentee voting 8 days away

Republican nominee Rep. Lee Zeldin called out Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul Thursday for dragging her not committing to debate him nearly one month after she agreed to face off at least twice ahead of the Nov. 8 election.

“In eight days, we’ll start to see absentee ballots going out,” Zeldin said at a Thursday press conference.

“Kathy Hochul has been telling you, members of the media, for weeks that she will debate but she still has not yet said where, when or how many.”

The Long Island congressman says he is eager to spar with the incumbent Democrat in as many as five debate across the state covering issues like rising crime, inflation, state oversight over Yeshivas and population loss.

He accused Hochul of dodging voters even as her party sends out pre-filled absentee ballot applications to registered Democrats across the state. The process is legal under state law but Republicans have accused Democrats of using “dirty tricks” as part of the effort.

“Kathy Hochul is basically trying to get away with saying that if you elect her, you might find out what her position may be in January. I oppose congestion pricing. Kathy Hochul supports it. Let’s debate it.”

The GOP nominee has accepted two outstanding invitations form CBS2 and PIX11 to debate Hochul on TV. The governor has yet to commit to either.

Experts say Hochul is following a “Rose Garden” strategy where she limits engagement with her opponent while leveraging official government events alongside her own campaign ads to reach voters while leaving Zeldin out of the conversation.

Zeldin said he is willing to debate Hochul as many as five times in different locations across the state.
Zeldin said he is willing to debate Hochul as many as five times in different locations across the state.
Lev Radin/Sipa USA

That approach also helps Hochul avoid on-air gaffes that would give his campaign more ammunition for attacks, but delaying on debating Zeldin has risks of its own as the GOP bashes her similar to Democrats like U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman of Pennsylvania who finally Thursday committed to a single debate with opponent Dr. Mehmet Oz on Oct. 25.

“Fetterman had a stroke, what could be Gov. Hochul’s excuse?” Councilman Joe Borelli (R-SI), a spokesman for the Pro-Zeldin Save Our State PAC, told The Post Thursday.

“The public deserves to hear her explanation why she puts criminals ahead of the public, or will tax commuters into oblivion, or will destroy our upstate farms. Her ‘Orange Man Bad’ strategy isn’t going to cut it for her constituents who now face real problems every day and continue to struggle to live in the most unaffordable state in the country,” Borelli, who is also the minority leader of the City Council, added.

A Hochul campaign spokesman declined to comment Thursday about when and where she would make good on her vow.

Polling in recent weeks has shown Hochul with a lead ranging from six points to 24 points over Zeldin, who also faces disadvantages with fundraising.

Debates would offer him a chance to confront the governor while increasing his profile with voters.

Four years ago, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Republican challenger Marc Molinaro faced off in a single debate on Oct. 23 — one day after agreeing to meet.

The electoral situation is different four years later with higher rates of absentee voting, and the implementation of early voting, coming into play since then.

“The Democratic Party strategically is trying to get people to start voting next week. But strategically, they’re trying to make sure that a debate doesn’t happen until after they vote. And that’s just wrong,” Zeldin said Thursday.

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