No sooner had U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning and his opponent, Democrat Tracy Mitrano, agreed to three debates than the candidates began sparring over the details.
The 23rd Congressional District candidates first agreed to face off in three debates leading up to the Nov. 6 election. The events will be on Oct. 24 in Jamestown; on Oct. 30, in Corning; and on Nov. 1, in Olean.
One bone of contention: None of the debates is in the Finger Lakes area of the district, specifically Ontario or Yates counties. Mitrano is from Yates County. Secondly, Mitrano argues the debates are crammed together and too close to the election. Reed and his campaign say three debates is standard and say Mitrano was dishonest to complain about the debate schedule after the fact.
“The first debate that has been scheduled is less than two weeks prior to Election Day. Debates are crucial to democracy,” stated Mitrano. “Delaying the debates like this is deeply unfair to voters in this district. … To cram the debates in the last weeks of a Congressional campaign is a disservice to voters and a violation to the essential values of a democracy: critical thinking, information, and debate in a manner that allows for extended continuation of public discourse.”
In addition to the three scheduled debates, the Mitrano campaign accepted invitations from other entities as well including the League of Women Voters of Geneva, Ontario County. Mitrano also agreed to debate invitations for dates that have yet to be determined from the League of Women Voters of Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties; the League of Women Voters of Chautauqua County; and the People for a Healthy Environment, a grassroots organization based in Horseheads.
When asked about Mitrano’s complaints during a conference call Tuesday, Reed shot back by saying Mitrano had agreed to the debates and then “manipulated the information,” charging that his opponent is “constantly misrepresenting” him.
Abbey Daugherty, communications director for the Reed campaign, stated in an email, “Our campaigns have agreed to three debates, the same number we have done in past campaigns and that is enough for Presidential elections. With 250+ town halls and countless tele-town halls and public events, any suggestion that voters don’t have opportunities to speak with Tom, hear his views and share their feedback is dishonest.”
Both candidates say they look forward to debating the issues to show why they are the best choice to represent the district. The 23rd includes southern and eastern portions of Ontario County.