Three Open Letters Regarding Christina Abt

Dear City and State NY:

Thank you for listening to the outcry and inviting Ms. Abt to next Tuesday’s debate. I understand that she declined the invitation, because she determined that it’s more useful for her to go out into the community than to debate the four other candidates.

This was not, however, a demand that she be allowed to debate, but merely that she be granted the courtesy of a timely invitation – that she be recognized as one of the five current candidates vying for that Assembly seat, and that she is engaged in a primary race against Mr. Humiston.

Late yesterday, I received an email from your director of marketing, Andrew Holt. He explained that the original idea for next Tuesday’s debate was to just hold a debate for the Republicans in the 147th race, and that someone then decided to expand it to other races. You folks are from downstate, and you wanted to maximize your time in Buffalo. The NY-27 debate is to be the centerpiece.

Perhaps you can consider the barrage of emails regarding Abt as a sort of hazing into western New York politics. Christina is very well-respected by Democrats and Republicans alike. I’ve never heard a negative word about her. You wrote,

Regarding the 147th AD: Several folks had forwarded emails from Christina after the initial promotion, and encouraged us to reach out and to possibly include her in that specific debate. As the original concept was to only invite folks involved in the Republican primary, and already confirming their participation, I did think it didn’t was fair to the process to include her as she is a declared Democrat, also running on the Indy line. I spoke to Christina and explained it wasn’t a slight, just wasn’t part of the original primary debate programming, and that we would be happy to have her attend next Tuesday, and I would introduce her to our editor Morgan Pehme (who will also be moderating). She confirmed that she wasn’t being invited to debate, and I said that is correct, with the caveat that we were hoping to do a follow up closer to the general election, for which we would be happy to include her at that time.

In fact, you have it backwards – Abt is an Independence Party member running on the Democratic line. She is engaged in a primary race against Mr. Humiston. Although you intended no slight, she (and others) perceived it as such, because you made the decision to expand the debate to other races – mostly, but not exclusively, primaries.

After receiving a host of emails following your blog post, I conferred with our partners and the editor, and agreed to configure a way to include her in the discussion. When I called her to let her know, she declined to participate citing that it was a near 50 mile roundtrip drive. To which I was very confused, and only then understood that I was being taken for a bit of a ride. I left it off that we were hoping she would attend.

Here’s the thing – this wasn’t about her being given an opportunity to debate. It was about respect and consideration. The key here wasn’t the debate, but the invitation. In this case, it came too late and a bit begrudgingly. The organizers of this event didn’t have their ducks in a row, and didn’t think this out fully. That’s a shame, but your publication should take it as a teachable point.

Our politics here are so very petty and transactional. That’s why it’s so outrageous that the least petty and un-transactional candidate in any race was deliberately excluded from the original invitation. I would also note that you’ve omitted two of the most important, contentious primaries from your roster: the race for Grisanti’s senate seat has four very interesting candidates, and would be a huge draw.

Nevertheless, I thank you for you re-assessing the situation, and ultimately doing the right thing. I look forward to learning more about your publication in the future.

Dear Sam Magavern, Co-Director, Partnership for Public Good:

I received a very cordial note from you detailing that Christina contacted you and the YWCA – the two local organizers of next Tuesday’s debate regarding the lack of an invitation. You wrote that you and the Y went to bat for Christina, and this is appreciated.

I would point out, however, that when you affix your organization’s name as a co-sponsor or co-organizer of a political event, you need to think about it politically. That means you and your co-sponsors should err on the side of inclusion, and make sure that the courtesy of an invitation is given to all candidates in a race who meet the debate format. These are local races, and your organization advocates for fairness, equality, and good government. I treat this unintended slight as a mere oversight, and not as some sort of animus.

Thank you for pushing City and State towards ultimately doing what they should have done in the first place.

To Deborah Lynn Williams, Executive Director of the YWCA of WNY:

At around 10:30 yesterday morning, you sent this to Christina Abt:

Hello Christina

I was disappointed to see Alan’s rantings today. He made no effort to contact anyone but you it seems. He also seems not to have been informed that after you and i spoke that I was intervening to have you invited based on the fact that you were still in a primary on the I line. A shame that that route was taken when your case was being carried.

I hope that you will contact Alan and correct the record.


Your arrogance and condescension is as expected as it is unnecessary. But it comes with the territory. Everybody else involved in this was somehow mysteriously able to recognize a slight and work to rectify it, without being an insufferable jerk, (and I know all about being an insufferable jerk). In writing my piece yesterday, I went to great pains to not personalize my anger to any individual or group. All of the organizations trying to pull this shambles together should either do it right, or not do it at all. Being unsurprised at the aggressive tone of your note to Christina, I’ll respond in kind.

First of all, I don’t really care whether you’re disappointed to see my “rantings”, ever. If I could, I’d ban you and other nasty people (you know who you are) from reading. Regrettably, I can’t.

I didn’t need to contact anyone before writing yesterday’s piece. Christina posted a set of facts – none of which anyone has controverted in any way, at any timeand I wrote what I thought about those facts. I didn’t realize you thought I needed to run my opinion by you first, and I can assure you it’s not a practice I’ll be commencing anytime soon. I didn’t run it by anyone.

You assume that I contacted only Abt. Wrong. I never contacted her, either. On Tuesday night, Alan Oberst alerted me to Christina’s blog post about the debate snub, and because it was written with “just the facts”, I had no need to expand on that.

You write that I wasn’t aware that you were intervening on her behalf. You’re right – I wasn’t. That’s because I didn’t contact anyone before writing my reaction to Christina’s post.

Presumably, as co-sponsor of the debate – one of the two locally based co-sponsors – you had an opportunity to see the proposed debate roster before it was finalized, right? You knew the City & State guys running the show are from out of town, and may not be up to speed on who’s who and what’s what, correct?

As a local sponsor, this was your opportunity to step up and do the due diligence needed, and take appropriate action before it blew up in everyone’s face. You should have compared the City & State list and compared it with who was running. You’d likely have noticed that Abt was in a primary against the invited Humiston, and had a discussion about including her. However, that happened only after Abt protested. That’s your poor work and – at least partly – your oversight. Not my fault. When you don’t do what’s right from the get-go, expect to be criticized, and deal with it – as your cohorts were able to do.

I can understand that PPG may not be up to speed on the political machinations around town, and obviously City & State has no clue. But you – you’re the one who worked in live-shot-Schumer’s office. You’re the one who’s tight with Steve Pigeon. You’re as politically plugged in as anyone in Buffalo. You have no excuse.

You did the right thing by inviting Abt, but that “right thing” is something you could have – and should have – done earlier. Abt was disrespected and you should couple your invitation with an apology.

Instead of being contrite and apologetic about sending out an incomplete debate invitation, you’re abrasive and insulting. Typical.

Consider the record corrected.



  • Have I told you lately how much you rock BP?!

  • WOW!  Even the Y has ties to Pigeon?  Will he ever go away?

  • Where the heck did Steve Pigeon come into all of this?

  • It’s ridiculous and inexcusable that the debate sponsors hadn’t invited her to participate.   All candidates whose names are on the ballot should have been invited.  

    And now that they have invited her, isn’t it also ridiculous for her to decline to participate?

    The “it’s too late” excuse sounds lame.  The state assembly isn’t the kind of office whose issues are so complex that a huge amount of debate prep should be needed. 

    While that outrage about excluding her was completely justified, now from the voters’ perspective, won’t her excluding of herself have the same end result as the initial exclusion?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.