Can a thermostat be sexist? Temperature debate draws national attention

Former Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon speaks to people at the Bethesda Healing Center in Brooklyn, New York on March 20, 2018 at her first event since announcing that shes running for governor of New York. Cynthia Nixon, the US actress who shot to fame as workaholic lawyer Miranda on "Sex and the City," jumped into the race for New York governor March 19, 2018, unveiling a progressive platform championing economic equality and eschewing big business.The 51-year-old declared her candidacy with a two-minute campaign video posted on Twitter that showed her at home with her wife and children, riding the subway, taking one of her children to school and speaking at liberal political causes. / AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s the climate change fight no one saw coming.

A day out from their big-ticket debate, a leaked email has brought up — quite literally — the temperature in the race between New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and primary challenger Cynthia Nixon.

Frustrated by a pre-debate process they say effectively shut them out of negotiations over questions like its date and whether the candidates would sit or stand, Nixon’s team suggested in a note to debate hosts WCBS that the room temperature be set to a toasty 76 degrees.

It was a cheeky opening bid, the campaign later said, an effort to move the dial away from the chilly atmosphere Cuomo is known to prefer while also turning some public attention toward his alleged control of the debate settings.

Nixon had for months lobbied to face off with Cuomo before a date was finally announced on August 13 without any discussion between the camps over the details, according to Nixon’s team.

“The result,” senior adviser Rebecca Katz said in a statement then, is “a debate at Andrew Cuomo’s chosen location and TV station, in his preferred format, with a favorable audience, and on a date in the last week of August when a minimum of New Yorkers will be watching.”

When The New York Times first reported this more specific ask on Tuesday morning, it set off another kind of debate — on social media — over what one journalist described on Twitter as “the thermostat patriarchy,” a reference to office spaces traditionally setting their thermostats low in the summer months to accommodate men in suits.

By the early afternoon, both campaigns and their supporters had joined in a kind of light-hearted (by the intense standard of this contest) back-and-forth on social media.

L. Joy Williams, a senior adviser to the Nixon campaign, tweeted — with a GIF to punctuate her point — about the fundamentals of the negotiations.

“Maybe you say 76 degrees,” Williams wrote, “and get 65 degrees instead of freezing at 50.”

Meanwhile, top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa posted a picture of a dog “recovering” on a bed of ice cubes after, as she joked, “attending debate prep in Team Nixon’s preferred temperature.”

Ultimately, the Cuomo campaign — which said it has made no request, directly or not, about the temperature — brushed off the kerfuffle as a distraction engineered by Nixon.

“Unlike Cynthia Nixon, the Governor has more important things to focus on than the temperature of a room,” Cuomo spokeswoman Lis Smith said.

Cuomo and Nixon, who has trailed the two-term incumbent by 30 or more percentage points in most recent polls, are fighting one of the testiest primaries of the season. The election is scheduled for a little more than two weeks from now, on September 13.

With Cuomo leading and outspending Nixon by far, the Wednesday night one-on-one is shaping up to be her last chance to pitch a sizable television audience — and a final hurdle for Cuomo to clear ahead of the election.

The heat, if it wasn’t before, is now most surely on.