Mayoral challenger Sal Albanese fights in court for debate spot
Despite arguing in federal court for a spot on Wednesday night’s debate stage, a Brooklyn judge moved that Reform Party mayoral candidate Sal Albanese did not meet the monetary criteria and will remain excluded from the event.
Albanese took the NYC Campaign Finance Board (CFB) to Brooklyn’s federal court after he did not meet the necessary $1 million raised-and-spent mark set by the board to participate in the final general election debate.
“At the end of the day, you have to rob a bank to win an election,” Albanese’s attorney, Richard Luthmann said in court.
Luthmann called the debate criteria an “impediment to political discourse,” censuring candidates who can’t raise the funds.
“It invites us down the slipperiest of slippery slopes,” he said.
Judge Raymond Dearie said at the hearing he had sympathy for the three-time mayoral candidate and former Brooklyn councilmember’s motion, but eventually moved in favor of the city.
Having raised some $200,000, Albanese was pitted against Mayor Bill de Blasio in two Democratic primary debates. But since losing the primary, he has not been able to raise and spend enough for either general election debate while running on the Reform Party ballot.
He pointed out in court that he had higher support in the polls than Independent Bo Dietl, who raised the money and secured a podium.
“How is it in the public interest that Dietl is on stage with lower support?” Albanese asked, wearing his navy blue campaign pin in court. “Where’s the justice here?”
CFB attorney Neil Giovanatti said the criterion is to keep the stage civil with “legitimate” candidates.
“We don’t want to have everybody on the stage. Then you have everybody fighting for time,” Giovanatti said. “There was absolutely nothing stopping Mr. Albanese from raising $1 million.”
Giovanatti added the amount wasn’t “completely unreasonable,” to which Judge Dearie laughed and joked it was only a little unreasonable.
The second and final general election debate, which will be hosted by CBS, will be held at the CUNY Graduate Center at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
Albanese argued in state court to be put in the first general election debate, but the issue was pushed back until December.
Despite the setback, the candidate said in a statement he will continue to campaign until the Nov. 7 election day.
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