ALBANY — One is the loneliest number.
Rep. Lee Zeldin rejected Gov. Hochul on Thursday after the governor finally agreed to go toe-to-toe with her Republican challenger.
Zeldin said he has no interest in facing off against the incumbent Democrat next month for a single debate unless she agrees to more verbal sparring matches ahead of the Nov. 8 general election.
“I am rejecting Kathy Hochul’s offer to one single debate at the very end of October,” the Long Island lawmaker said during a virtual press conference. “I believe that it’s important for Kathy Hochul to come back with an offer to do multiple debates in multiple parts of this state.
“I am not playing along with her games, I am not going to be playing along with this strategy that is an insult, disrespecting the voter of New York,” he added.
Zeldin has spent weeks calling on the governor to agree to at least five face-to-face meetings across the Empire State in the lead up to the election.
After being hounded by her conservative counterpart, Hochul’s campaign announced on Wednesday that the governor would be on board for a single hour-long debate Oct. 25 hosted by Spectrum News NY1 at Pace University in Manhattan.
“Governor Hochul looks forward to highlighting the clear contrast between her strong record of delivering results and Lee Zeldin’s extreme agenda,” campaign spokesman Jerrel Harvey said in a statement.
Zeldin, however, panned the idea of waiting until days before early voting is set to begin to face off against the governor.
“We have a lot to talk about and I don’t believe that one hour at the very end of October… does this process any justice or respect,” he said.
Zeldin has already accepted debate invitations from PIX 11 and CBS2 and noted on Thursday that both stations have outlets across the state that could broadcast the events. NY1 is only available to Spectrum subscribers.
The pair of politicians certainly have much to discuss, Zeldin said. The congressman’s campaign has focused primarily on public safety and tying bail reform and other Dem-backed policies to rising crime.
Additionally, Zeldin said he would like to debate the governor, who is seeking a full term in office after replacing Andrew Cuomo last year, on a range of topics from congestion pricing to the fate of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
Hochul and her fellow Democrats, meanwhile, have honed in on Zeldin’s longstanding ties to former president Donald Trump and his far right stances on abortion and gun laws. Recent ads from the governor’s campaign have painted Zeldin as “extreme and dangerous,” focusing on opposition to abortion access and his vote to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Hochul campaign staffers on Thursday accused the Republican of turning tail once the governor agreed to a showdown.
“Well, well, well. Look who’s scared…” Hochul campaign spokesman Brian Lesswing tweeted.