Democratic candidate for state Attorney General, Tish James, refused to say if she will accept a challenge from her Republican opponent, Keith Wofford, to participate in five televised debates before the general election Nov. 6.
Wofford issued a challenge to James to engage in debates Oct. 3 — little more than four weeks before Election Day.
The state Attorney General’s seat was left open for takers after former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was accused of sexual assault and resigned.
James, the two-term New York City Public Advocate, won the Democratic nomination in the primary Sept. 13.
Wofford grew up in Buffalo and now is a co-managing partner of the law firm Ropes & Gray’s New York City office.
“New Yorkers across the state deserve to hear where each candidate stands on the issues,” Wofford’s campaign manager O’Brien Murray said. “Regional debates facilitate discussions that educate voters both upstate and downstate. As we saw during the primary, too many debates are New York City-centric, which causes upstate residents to feel ignored. How better to broaden the discussion than to have debates in every corner of New York?”
James’ campaign refused to say whether she would participate in debates with Wofford, suggesting Wofford’s challenge is a way for him to deflect a challenge from James’ campaign posed earlier in the week and calling on Wofford to release his tax returns.
“The New York Times has just reported that President Trump and his family may have, in fact, committed fraud and hid their wealth at the expense of tenants,” said Jack Sterne, a spokesman for James’ campaign. “Republican Keith Wofford wishes to ascend to the highest law enforcement office in New York and will have to hold Trump accountable. Will he call on Trump to release his tax returns once and for all? Will he lead by example and release his?
“This is a basic test of transparency. If Mr. Wofford fails it, he forfeits the right to run for Attorney General.”
Traditionally, candidates running for statewide offices release their tax returns, providing them to news outlets, including Schneiderman while he served as attorney general.
James released five years worth of her state and federal tax returns during the primary and called on Wofford to do the same Oct. 3. James’ tax returns can be found on her campaign website.
“Of course, Keith Wofford will release his taxes,” Wofford’s campaign spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said. “But let’s not forget Letitia James only released her taxes the first time after news reports that she never reported her rental income in her financial disclosure forms. James was hiding nearly $50,000 of income a year from the public.
“Letitia James proves she is a typical politician. She runs from debate requests for more than a week then asks for transparency after hiding her income from voters.”
James was criticized during her runoff election for New York City Public Advocate against former state Sen. Daniel Squadron in 2013.