New York Governor Cuomo to debate Democratic rival Cynthia Nixon

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, in his first one-on-one debate in 12 years, will square off on Wednesday against actress and activist Cynthia Nixon, who is challenging him from the left for the Democratic nomination to contest November’s election.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.), speaks to guests during the National Action Network (NAN) Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Public Policy Forum in the Harlem borough of New York City, New York, U.S., January 15, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

For Nixon, who is seeking office for the first time, the debate just two weeks before the Sept. 13 gubernatorial primary may be her best opportunity to convince voters she has a chance of upsetting Cuomo, a potential 2020 presidential candidate who is running for his third term.

Three polls in recent months all had Nixon trailing Cuomo by more than 30 percentage points.

“It’s Cynthia Nixon’s ‘do or die’ moment. She has to score points somehow,” Hank Sheinkopf, who previously advised Cuomo as a Democratic strategist, said in a telephone interview. “She’s got to get a really significant knockout in order to get herself into the campaign because she’s not really in it.”

Cuomo, whose father, Mario Cuomo, also served as New York governor, comes from one of the state’s most powerful Democratic families. He has a long record of government service and had raised nearly 50 times more money than Nixon, according to financial disclosures filed last month.

Nixon is best known for her portrayal of lawyer Miranda Hobbes on the HBO show “Sex and the City,” for which she won an Emmy. The New York City native has also been a longtime champion of causes such as better schools and equal rights for gays and lesbians.

Lauren Hitt, a Nixon campaign spokeswoman, said she hoped the debate would expose Cuomo as being a political opportunist.

“There’s been a lot of commentary about how Cynthia Nixon has moved his politics to the left,” Hitt said in a telephone interview, referring to Cuomo’s recent shift toward Nixon’s campaign positions on issues such as marijuana and the restoration of voting rights to felons.

“I do think at its core there’s some uncertainty about what the governor’s beliefs are,” he said. “They’ve changed a lot.”

Abbey Fashouer, a Cuomo spokeswoman, declined to be interviewed on the record, but later sent an email saying the campaign expected Nixon to perform well because she was an award-winning actress.

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