Rick Lazio, the Republican frontrunner in the primary for New York governor, has thrown down the gauntlet and challenged Democratic nominee and state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to a debate…a debate that focuses solely on the controversial plans to build a Muslim community center near Ground Zero.
In a statement released yesterday, Lazio wrote that “the time to debate the Cordoba Mosque proposed to be built on the sacred land at Ground Zero is now.”
You have called those of us who oppose building this mosque racists and bigots. You should be ashamed of yourself. To get real answers I suggest that we debate this issue in an open forum to be covered by the news media. Your position on this issue is so wrong and I recognize you may not want to defend it but all the same I am asking you to do just that. I am sending a copy of this request for debate to all television stations and all newspapers in New York.
The TPM Poll Average shows Cuomo beating Lazio 57.9%-26.6%.
Lazio’s letter yesterday was perhaps an effort to double down and appeal to the more conservative elements in the Republican party, some of whom are supporting Tea Party-backed primary candidate Carl Paladino. Paladino has come out strongly against the Ground Zero mosque, and said that if he’s elected, he would use eminent domain to block its construction. Current New York Governor David Paterson’s (D) legal team concluded that this argument would not hold up in court.
A recent Quinnipiac poll shows Paladino making some gains on Lazio, ahead of the September 14 primary.
h/t Capitol Confidential.