You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Cynthia Nixon and Andrew Cuomo Spar Over Subway Woes, Legalizing Pot in Gubernatorial Debate

Cynthia Nixon came out swinging against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Wednesday night during the pair’s first and only debate before the Empire State holds its gubernatorial primary election on Sept. 13.

Nixon, the “Sex and the City” alum who is making her first run for political office, repeatedly called the two-term incumbent a “liar” and “corrupt.” The two parried over the state of New York’s overburdened subway system, the legalization of marijuana, the dearth of affordable housing, and how to deal with the state’s homeless population. The hourlong face off was sponsored by CBS O&O WCBS-TV New York and held at Hofstra University on Long Island.

Cuomo at times seemed to be running against President Donald Trump more than his liberal challenger for power in Albany. Cuomo repeatedly invoked the threats posed by Trump and cast himself and New York state as a ballast against the White House’s conservative agenda.

“He has to be stopped,” Cuomo said of Trump. He noted that Trump regularly slams him on Twitter, something he carries as a badge of honor. “I welcome it. Know me by my enemies,” Cuomo said. “Someone has to stand up to him.”

Pressed by debate moderator Maurice DuBois of WCBS, Cuomo pledged to serve out all four years of his term if re-elected, effectively taking him out of the running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

Nixon articulated her agenda that includes legalization of marijuana; allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses; greater state investment in education, health care, and affordable housing; and passing legislation to give public sector unions greater rights to strike. 

Nixon was pressed by DuBois about her lack of political experience and her qualifications to oversee a state of 20 million people and a budget of nearly $170 billion. She cited her long resume as an activist and experience as an advocate and fundraiser for New York City public education. She vowed to forgo the governor’s $179,000 annual salary if elected. 

“Experience doesn’t mean that much if you’re not actually good at governing,” she said in a jab at Cuomo.

The two basically agreed on the issue of following the lead of Colorado, California, and other states in legalizing marijuana. Nixon called for a speedy implementation of legal sales in the state, while Cuomo was more cautious but cited a recent state study that concluded “the benefits outweigh the risks.”

Nixon cast legal pot as a racial justice issue, noting that persons of color are far more likely to be arrested for marijuana-related crimes than white people. She called for those now in jail for pot busts to be paroled and to have the conviction expunged.

“Effectively, marijuana in New York state has been legal for white people for a very long time,” she said. 

But nothing got the contenders more animated than their discussion of New York City’s transit woes.

Nixon bashed Cuomo for failing to invest in the state’s infrastructure. Cuomo countered that the city has to pay half of the immense bill for upgrading what he acknowledged were “40-year-old cars and 100-year-old switches.” But he resolutely stuck with his position that the city of New York has to pay its share for revamping the system that serves some 600 miles of track. “It’s a shared city-state expense,” he said, playing to upstate voters who don’t want to have to shoulder a huge tab for a service they don’t use.

Cuomo needled Nixon about the fact that as an actor she works through her own corporation. Nixon described herself as a “small business owner.” Cuomo also hammered Nixon on her record to date of disclosing tax returns. As Nixon railed against the influence of corporate money in politics — she called Cuomo “a corrupt corporate Democrat” — Cuomo asserted that Nixon uses loopholes to avoid paying “her fair share” of taxes. He also accused her of using her celebrity to pull strings with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration. Cuomo asserted that Nixon asked de Blasio officials to ensure that helicopters did not fly over Central Park during the summer Shakespeare in the Park productions, and for helping her “Sex and the City” co-star Sarah Jessica Parker with a favor for the owner of  a “tea house,” apparently a reference to Greenwich Village’s Tea and Sympathy shop.

The two had other testy exchanges. Nixon accused Cuomo of exacerbating the subway problems by “stealing hundreds of millions of dollars” from the MTA budget for other projects. 

“He used the MTA like an ATM,” she quipped. Cuomo later made a snide reference to Nixon’s vocation in disputing her characterization of his record after seven and a half years as governor.

“My opponent lives in the world of fiction. I live in the world of fact,” Cuomo said.

At times, the political rivals were downright snippy. “Can you stop interrupting?” Cuomo said to Nixon as they argued about the subway issue. “Can you stop lying?” she shot back.

Cuomo’s campaign managed to get the first word in the telecast by buying the 30-second commercial spot that led into the debate special on WCBS. It featured clips of Nixon praising Cuomo at past events, calling his agenda “incredibly forward-thinking and incredibly progressive.”

More TV

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Signs of Solidarity and Strain Emerge as Week 2 of WGA-Talent Agency Standoff Begins

    Hundreds of WGA members rallied solidly behind their union last week as the industry grappled with uncertainties spurred by the sudden break between writers and their talent agency representatives. But as the standoff heads into its second week, signs of strain among some WGA members are beginning to emerge. Shalom Auslander, author and creator of [...]

  • Jon Snow Arya Stark Game of

    'Game of Thrones' Final Season Vegas Odds Reveal Wild Theories

    With “Game of Thrones” hype at an all-time high, Las Vegas may be raking in as much money as the Iron Bank. HBO’s fantasy masterpiece has seized the gambling world’s attention nearly as much as the Super Bowl or Kentucky Derby. Fans spew countless theories on social media, such as which characters will be axed [...]

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

  • Adam Lambert, of Queen, performs at

    Adam Lambert Back to 'Idol' to Mentor Finalists Through Queen's Catalog

    Adam Lambert famously launched his career on “American Idol” a decade ago performing a brilliant audition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He wrapped that amazing eighth season performing with the band on the season finale, and years later earned his current spot as the front man touring as Queen + Adam Lambert. On April 28, Lambert comes full circle as he steps [...]

  • Lily Tomlin SAG Lifetime Acheivement Award

    TV News Roundup: Netflix's 'Laugh-In' 50th Anniversary Tribute Sets Premiere Date

    In today’s TV News roundup, Netflix sets the premiere date for its 50th anniversary special of “Laugh-In.” DATES “Laugh-In: The Stars Celebrate,” the 50th anniversary tribute to the original series by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, will premiere on Netflix on May 14. The special, which was taped at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, pays [...]

  • Texas Tech's Norense Odiase (32) shoots

    Live+3 Ratings for Week of April 8: NCAA Championship Game Dunks on Competition

    The final of the 2019 NCAA basketball tournament, in which Virginia triumphed over a spirited Texas Tech team, unsurprisingly finished way out in front in the Live+3 ratings for the week of April 8. Although the sports broadcast’s scripted competition made some gains, its 5.4 ratings still more than doubled that of “Grey’s Anatomy” in [...]

  • Mueller Report Release Draws 11 Million

    Mueller Report Release Draws 11 Million Total Viewers Across TV News

    Coverage of the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into whether President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice unsurprisingly caused a ratings bump across TV news yesterday. In terms of overall viewership, around 11 million people tuned in to see Attorney General William Barr’s news conference regarding the report’s release, and the news coverage surrounding it. According [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content