The two candidates for the 3rd Congressional District won’t be meeting for a debate until Oct. 15, but Republican nominee Dan DeBono does not want to wait. He has repeatedly challenged U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi to a debate in the meantime.
“It is a sad day in New York when a career politician, seemingly gripped by fear and his own track record, refuses a reasonable request to engage in debate,” DeBono said in an email sent to voters. “If he’s afraid, he has no place in public office. If he’s unprepared, then no amount of time will cure him. It is a slap in the face of voters to run and hide.”
Suozzi has already agreed to several debates with DeBono in the latter half of the month. According to a spokeswoman for the Suozzi campaign, Suozzi will take part in a debate or forum with DeBono on Oct. 15, 18, 25 and 31.
“We have a bunch of debates on the schedule,” she said.
The two also appeared together in Queens on Aug. 29, although that was a candidate forum, not a debate.
In the DeBono email, the debates in late October were described as “simply insufficient, and are an insult to voters.”
DeBono, who runs an investment advisory business, faces several challenges in his matchup with Suozzi. Suozzi, the former Nassau County executive, has far more name recognition in the area. The seat — helped by a voter backlash to President Donald Trump — is expected by pollsters to remain Democrat (the FiveThirtyEight website gives Suozzi a 99.4 percent chance of victory). Given his good shot at winning, Suozzi has outraised DeBono by $2.08 million to $311,909 between the start of 2017 and the end of June 2018 (the most recent filing deadline).
DeBono’s campaign manager, Daniel Winter, acknowledged his candidate faced “an uphill climb,” but said he believed the candidate’s message would ultimately shine through.
“The people are fed up with getting shafted by the government,” he said, and pointed to state Sen. Elaine Phillips as proof that Republicans could find success on the North Shore.
Winter drew parallels between DeBono and Democrats who were challenging nearby Republican incumbents like Lee Zeldin and Peter King.
“The Democratic challengers are refusing PAC money for smaller donations, and that is what we’re doing, too,” he said. Winter said that DeBono was progressive on issues such as the environment and would be just as willing to take on Republicans as Democrats.
In order to grab the attention of Long Island voters, DeBono has gone on the offensive against Suozzi. On Twitter, DeBono has frequently attacked his opponent over the debates, campaign money and Suozzi’s work in Washington and Nassau County.
Career politician @RepTomSuozzi hides from debating me; instead spends time wearing beauty sashes, riding horses, and conducting art contests.
Congressman Suozzi has refused to schedule a timely debate after repeated requests. Any day, time, place, venue. At least 60 minutes. pic.twitter.com/HGjyrUksze
— Dan DeBono (@DanDeBono) September 18, 2018
As for Suozzi, none of his tweets have mentioned DeBono by name.
Reach reporter Luke Torrance by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 214, or follow him on Twitter @LukeATorrance.