Questions swirl over incumbent lawmakers’ participation in tonight’s Jackson Heights primary debate

Photo via Google Maps

Candidates in multiple primary races in Queens are set to debate tonight in Jackson Heights. But with Tuesday’s Congressional primary fast approaching, a big question looms: will Joe show?

The incumbents and their challengers for Assembly, State Senate and Congressional seats will face off at 7 p.m. at the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights, located at 37-06 77th St.

Crowley’s squaring off against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who said in an email that the Congressman is slated to attend tonight’s debate. It follows a New York Times’ editorial criticizing Crowley for not showing up for past primary debates, including one recently held in the Bronx.

The incumbent reportedly cited “scheduling conflicts” as his reason for not showing up. Instead, he sent former City Councilwoman Annabel Palma to debate in his place.

Following the debate, Ocasio-Cortez took to Twitter, saying “In a bizarre twist, Rep. Crowley sent a woman with slight resemblance to me as his official surrogate to last night’s debate.” According to The New York Times, the congressman was at a civic association meeting in Queens on the night of the debate.

Crowley and Ocasio-Cortez are both vying for the seat in New York’s 14th Congressional District. The other candidates who are confirmed for tonight’s debate, and are involved in September statewide primary showdowns, are as follows:

  • Senator Jose Peralta versus Jessica Ramos for New York’s 13th Senate District;
  • Assemblywoman Ari Espinal versus Catalina Cruz and Yonel Sosa for New York’s 39th Assembly District.

However, a day before the June 21 debate, Peralta and Espinal released a joint letter to the debate organizers, Naureen Akhter and Amanda Vender, to demand that the debate be fair. The candidates raised concerns that the organizers did not reach out to them before scheduling the debate, labeling the move “disingenuous” to both themselves and the public.

“One of our opponents even serves on the board of one of the sponsors,” they stated in the letter. They added that one of the organizers is “actively campaigning for our opponents.”

Peralta and Espinal asked that the questions asked “reflect the diversity of the district” and that those asking the questions in the audience are not just the friends and supporters of their opponents.

“Voters deserve the opportunity to hear from their leaders, and we hope and expect that you will take the necessary steps to ensure this debate is the fair, impartial, and productive event that Central Queens’ residents deserve, rather than a platform organized by our opponents and their supporters masquerading as a debate,” said the candidates in the letter.

According to the Queens Chronicle, other invitees to the debate included state senate candidate Moin Choudhury, Governor Andrew Cuomo and gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon.

More from Around New York