After weeks of public disagreements, Tracy Mitrano J.D. ’95 and Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) have agreed to debate on Oct. 27, one week before the congressional election and three days after early voting begins.
Over the summer, Mitrano, the Democratic challenger in the race for New York’s 23rd Congressional District, asked Reed to agree to five debates. But Reed denied the proposition, calling Mitrano a “grand-stander” for requesting more debates than the presidential campaign.
However, on a Sept. 17 call with reporters, Reed said he agreed to debate Mitrano. The Mitrano campaign stated in a Sept. 18 press release that Reed agreed to debate on Oct. 27.
This time, however, it was Mitrano who disavowed the debate. She responded to Reed’s late October date by calling it “far too little, way too late,” in the Sept. 18 release.
In a message to The Sun on Sept. 23, Mitrano, said that she will debate Reed on Oct. 27 with stipulations.
“I will appear despite my stated objections so long as our campaign is able to stream live and archive the debate to the rest of the district,” Mitrano told The Sun.
Mitrano previously called Reed’s Oct. 27 offer “antithetical to the democratic process,” in a press release –– the debate would occur after early voting begins on Oct. 24.
The Mitrano campaign told The Sun that they offered debate dates in mid-October and the “original media outlet,” who they would not name publicly, offered to host a debate on Oct. 12.
Following the Mitrano campaign’s initial rebuke of the Oct. 27 debate, Matt Coker, senior advisor for the Reed campaign, shot back at Mitrano: “It’s disappointing if Tracy is backing out of debating, but with a record like hers, it’s not surprising she has chosen to duck and hide,” he wrote in a statement to The Sun.
Corker also wrote that this was “just another example of why voters can’t trust Tracy.”
On Thursday, Corker wrote that the debate will occur on NBC-affiliate station WETM. The Mitrano campaign stated that “negotiations are continuing with potential hosts,” and declined to state a host or time. Joshua Kramer, director of programming for WETM, wrote that the he is “working to lock it down ASAP,” in a message to The Sun.
Reed has represented the predominantly Republican district since 2010. The Cook Political Report’s partisan voting index of the district, which measures how much more one party performs compared to the national average, is R+6, meaning Republicans have outperformed Democrats in the district by an estimated 6 percentage points.
In 2016, President Donald Trump won the district by 15 points. Reed carried 57.6 percent of the vote in 2016 and 54.2 percent in 2018.
Reed endorsed the President in both his 2016 campaign and his 2020 campaign; he was one of the President’s earliest supporters in Congress. Reed was named an Honorary Chair of the President’s re-election campaign in New York in January.
Reed has far outraised his two-time competitor, according to the Federal Election Commission filings for the period ending June 30: The five-term incumbent had $955,305 on hand while Mitrano had $341,370 on hand.
From March to June, the Mitrano campaign raised about $266,000 compared to Reed’s estimated $358,000, according to FEC filings. Mitrano attributed the difference in fundraising to the types of contributors, with Reed having more PAC support.
This is not the first time the two candidates have gone head to head for the seat. In 2018, Reed won 53.78 percent of the vote over Mitrano’s 43.99 percent. During the 2018 election, Reed and Mitrano debated twice.
The 23rd District, which spans from Ithaca to New York’s Pennsylvania border, includes 11 counties: Tompkins, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany, Steuben, Yates, Schuyler, Seneca and Chemung counties and parts of Ontario and Tioga counties.
Alec Giufurta ’21 contributed reporting.