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Senator Gillibrand Pulls Out Of Skidmore College Debate (Updated)

The sold-out event was set to take place this Sunday night in Saratoga Springs.

Kirsten Gillibrand
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (left) has withdrawn from a debate with Republican challenger, Chele Farley, that was supposed to take place at Skidmore College on Sunday. (Chele Farley - Megan McDonald)

Just 48 hours before Incumbent Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was set to debate her Republican challenger, Chele Farley, at Skidmore College on Sunday, October 21, Gillibrand has pulled out. Last night (October 19), Gillibrand’s campaign reached out to saratoga living, telling us that Gillibrand would be withdrawing and providing the following statement to constituents:

“I believe deeply that an open public debate is essential to democracy. That is why months ago I agreed to a statewide debate with Spectrum News/NY1 before the upcoming election. However, I am also deeply committed to the working men and women of the labor community and support the 1,800 members of IBEW who went on strike for fair pay and benefits and I will not cross a de facto picket line scheduled for Sunday. That is why I will withdraw from participating in the Spectrum News/NY1 debate this Sunday unless the workers’ strike of Charter has been resolved. It is my hope that Charter’s management will come to the table and agree to a fair resolution with the hardworking members of IBEW before then. I remain willing and eager to debate on Sunday and hope this can be resolved in time to allow the debate to continue as scheduled. If not, my campaign stands ready to debate Sunday night with a different media partner or will explore another date and venue to conduct a debate before the election.”

Spectrum News was set to air the debate live across New York State, and the debate was to be moderated by Spectrum News’ host of Capital Tonight, Liz Benjamin, as well as NY1’s political anchor Errol Louis.

This would’ve been Gillbrand’s second debate at Skidmore College (her first was in 2012 against Wendy Long), as the junior Senator from New York is seeking a second term in office. An Albany native, Gillibrand was first elected to the US House of Representatives in 2006, representing the 20th district. She was then picked in 2009 by New York Governor David Paterson to fill the Senate seat left vacant by Hillary Clinton, who had been confirmed as Secretary of State in the Obama administration. Since then, Gillibrand has won large majorities in a special election in 2010 and a full-term bid in 2012, and this past February announced that she would no longer receive corporate PAC donations.

In the lead-up to the debate, Senator Gillibrand told saratoga living: “Having represented Saratoga Springs in my old Congressional district, and having grown up not far away in Albany, the area has always been a special place for me. After spending time listening to constituents in all 62 counties last year, I am excited to be back at Skidmore College for this statewide debate, and I look forward to earning the privilege of continuing to serve New Yorkers for another term.”

Her Republican opponent, Chele Farley, is a Stanford-educated financier who’s spent the past 25 years in New York City. Following the 2016 election, Farley was named the New York City Finance Chair for the New York State Republican Party, and this marks her first campaign for political office. She’s running on her outsider status and a strong background in business and finance, including years of experience at UBS Capital, Goldman Sachs and currently, Mistral Capital International, a private equity investment firm. She told us: “I’m a businesswoman who will fight for New Yorkers, and only New Yorkers. I support term limits for all elected officials, because taxpayers are fed up with the dysfunction in DC. As your US Senator, I will bring back the over $48 billion Washington insiders are stealing from hardworking New Yorkers each year and bring that money home to build better roads, cut property taxes and make our state a better place to live, work and raise a family.” (Farley’s campaign could not be reached for comment about the debate’s cancellation, but did offer up this blog post by means of a response.)

Even though the midterm elections are still three weeks off, they’re already being called another Elise Stefanik and Tedra Cobb for New York’s 21 Congressional District (which includes nearby Wilton, Glens Falls and Queensbury). 

Jeff Dingler
Jeff Dingler

Jeff Dingler is saratoga living's Senior Writer. He's a graduate of Skidmore College and a professional musician.

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