Preston Campaign: Debates Not Necessary

By Matt Porter

October 3, 2012 Updated Oct 4, 2012 at 8:29 AM EST

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) It's a debate about debates in Broome County.

As the presidential candidates meet for the first of three televised debates tonight, Democrat Tarik Abdelazim and Republican County Executive Debbie Preston haven't yet agreed on one debate, free and open to the public.

Abdelazim said he's accepted seven different offers for a debate, while his opponent has not made any acceptances.

"I'm extremely disappointed that my opponent continues to disrespect the citizens of Broome County and the right of its citizens," said Abdelazim in a press conference earlier this week.

Preston and her campaign say they are looking into potential times for a debate.

"We're looking at the calendar," said Preston in a press conference last week, "I'm not saying no, or not saying yes, as soon as we find out what's on the calendar."

Election advocates say debates offer voters a unique chance to see candidates.

The League of Women Voters has been waiting almost a month on a response for their debate.

"This has usually been a highlight of the season," said Jane Park, president of the League of Women Voters, "I get phone calls every day, when is that debate going to happen? And the answer is that we don't know that it is."

The non-partisan group has received a yes from the Abdelazim campaign, but are still waiting on a response from the Preston campaign.

Preston's campaign manager Bijoy Datta said debates aren't off the table, but not a guarantee either.

"I don't know that there necessarily needs to be a debate," said Datta. "There needs to be a way for the public to learn where a candidate stands on the issue."

In last year's county executive race, there were two televised and public debates.

The only meeting so far with both candidates this year came at a cost.

The Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce charged up to $30 to get in to a meet and greet last week. Cameras were not allowed.

Republican Congressman for the 22nd District Richard Hanna said at his free debate that elected officials have a duty to provide the public a chance to see them against their opponents.

"There shouldn't be, this is a democracy, you shouldn't have money to hear your elected officials discuss their opinion," said Hanna.

The only other race in Broome County without any public debates is between State Assemblywoman and Democrat Donna Lupardo and Republican challenger Julie Lewis.

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