Update: This story has been updated to include the results of internal polling released by Paladino’s campaign.

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Carl Paladino, a Republican congressional candidate in New York’s 23rd district, turned down an offer from News 4 to debate his opponent on television ahead of the Aug. 23 primary.

Nick Langworthy, the state’s Republican Committee chairman who is running against Paladino, accepted the invitation for an Aug. 9 debate shortly after it was sent out several weeks ago. He later challenged Paladino to one debate in each of the seven counties that constitute the redrawn district.

Paladino had until the close of business Wednesday to agree to the debate. In a statement provided to News 4 in which he formally declined, Paladino criticized Langworthy’s campaign as a “vanity project” and noted he was significantly ahead of Langworthy in an internal poll. A poll conducted by WPA from July 9-11 showed that Paladino leads Langworthy by 30 points, 54% to 24%, among registered Republicans.

“I’m not debating an illegitimate and ethically compromised candidate,” Paladino said. “In a debate, his ego and pomposity would be embarrassing. Desperate Nick Langworthy is down in the polls by 30 points, and 70 percent of Western New York couldn’t pick him out of a police lineup. He should do his job as state party chair, and bow out of his silly vanity project of running for Congress.”

Langworthy, who has touted numerous endorsements in the race, held a press conference earlier Wednesday in which he called on Paladino “to come out of hiding and answer to the voters.”

NY-23 stretches across New York’s Southern Tier from Lake Erie to Elmira, and includes the southern and eastern portions of Erie County.

The new NY-23 congressional district.

The primary election is scheduled for Aug. 23. Early voting starts Aug. 13.

The primary winner is expected to fare well in the general election in the heavily Republican-leaning district. The Democratic Party is running Max Della Pia, an Air Force veteran who serves as the party chair in Tioga County.

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Nick Veronica is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a Digital Executive Producer in 2021. He previously worked at NBC Sports and The Buffalo News. You can follow Nick on Facebook and Twitter and find more of his work here