Zephyr Teachout challenges Paul Singer to debate
© Getty Images

A Democratic House candidate is taking the unusual step of directly challenging one of her opponent’s top donors to a political debate.

Zephyr Teachout, a Bernie SandersBernie SandersSunday shows preview: US reaffirms support for Ukraine amid threat of Russian invasion Filibuster becomes new litmus test for Democrats Gallego says he's been approached about challenging Sinema MORE-backed candidate running for a New York seat, announced Wednesday that she wanted to publicly debate the wealthy donors of a super-PAC backing her opponent.


Specifically, Teachout called out Paul Singer, a billionaire hedge fund manager who has donated half a million dollars to an outside group backing her opponent, John Faso.

Teachout is taking the novel step of challenging a donor directly as the left increasingly frets about the influence of outside money on the political process since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

“These are people, and you know, mostly men, who are basically just picking and choosing areas and buying people who are going to represent them,” she said in a campaign video. “Paul Singer, I challenge you to come here and have a debate with me. “I think the people of the 19th District deserve to hear your actual voice when you’re putting so much money into trying to buy up representation.”

Singer is the manager of Elliott Management Corp. and is estimated to be worth over $2 billion. Both Singer and another hedge fund manager, Robert Mercer, have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to New York Wins PAC, which is supporting Faso. Teachout invited Mercer to a debate as well.

She said she wanted to discuss education, fracking, and trade policy with the billionaire investors. Both Mercer and Singer are frequent Republican donors in races nationwide.

Like Sanders, whose now-defunct presidential bid relied on a surge of grassroots support, Teachout has touted her ability to raise campaign funds from small donors. She noted in the video challenging Singer that the average donor to her campaign is about $15. Teachout is one of a handful of House candidates whom Sanders has publicly supported.

Teachout ran a failed campaign to oust New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the gubernatorial primary in 2014.

Faso, the former minority leader in the state Assembly, won his primary by defeating Andrew Heaney. Teachout and Faso face off this fall to replace the retiring Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.). He dismissed Teachout’s challenge as “an attempt to distract from her radical views.”

“As a law professor, Teachout knows that candidates have no control over independent spending. Rather than discussing jobs and the upstate economy, she attempts to distract attention from her radical views,” said Faso, according to the Albany Times Union. “That is what NYC carpetbaggers do.”

Singer and Mercer have yet to respond to Teachout's challenges.