NY-22 Minute: Summary of Final Debate by Luke Perry

NY-22 Minute: Summary of Final Debate by Luke Perry

Claudia Tenney and Anthony Brindisi met this evening for the third and final NY-22 debate in Vestal moderated by Charles Compton from WSKG. (watch here).

The content of the opening statements was similar to the previous two debates (coverage here & here). Tenney cast herself as a champion of small business who believes her opponent is too liberal for this “center right” district. Brindisi cast himself as a bipartisan problem solver who believes his opponent is dominated by corporate special interests.

Questions originated from the public and are paraphrased below with condensed responses.

 Photo by George Frey/Getty

Photo by George Frey/Getty

How would you address gun violence? Would this include a bump stock ban?

Tenney would ban bump stocks and lauded The Fix NICS Act and her work on legislation to end school violence. “Students are targets,” Tenney contended, while “gun free zones create more targets.”

Brindisi supported expanded background checks. The gun lobby has too much influence in Washington, Brindisi contended, which helps explain an absence of federal response. For Brindisi, the biggest problem in New York are guns purchased legally out of state, then smuggled here and used to commit crimes.

Both candidates claimed to support the Second Amendment and gun owners. Neither supported reinstating a federal assault weapons ban.

Brindisi supported increased spending for research on gun violence. Tenney did not, stating “we’ve spent a fortune researching gun violence.”

How would you vote on legislation designed to address growing inequality?

Brindisi would never have supported The Tax Cut and Jobs Act, which he claimed benefited the rich and has not helped to raise wages. Tenney claimed to have never met anyone who hasn’t benefited from the tax cut, except the wealthiest individuals. “We’re finally seeing some equality,” Tenney said.

 Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Would you support a living wage model based on geographic location?

Tenney criticized the notion of forcing different minimum wages throughout New York State creating class divisions. Tenney said wages are rising, citing a Department of Labor contention that wages are at the highest level in a decade. Tenney believes wages should be “created by economic growth, which we are seeing.”

Brindisi claimed that if Tenney spoke with more constituents she would realize that people’s wages are not going up in the district. Brindisi supported raising the minimum wage, and a living wage, and criticized Tenney for not thinking a minimum wage was necessary.

What do you propose to address high childcare costs?

Tenney discussed her experience as a single mom and caretaker for her parents. Tenney highlighted her efforts to bring Ivanka Trump to the district and raise the childcare tax credit.

Brindisi talked about childcare being a main concern he has heard as Assemblyman. Federal investments in childcare and public transportation are necessary to help working parents.

 Photo by Colgate University

Photo by Colgate University

Why should college students and their parents vote for you?

Brindisi believes student loan debt is a major issue, taking 21 years on average, for graduates to repay loans. Congress should do more to forgive student loan debt and invest in Pell Grants. Brindisi criticized Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for not doing more to help students.

Tenney criticized the rising costs of higher education, citing her alpha mater, Colgate University. Tenney claimed interest rates have been lowered and investment in Pell grants have increased. Tenney also stated she voted for loan forgiveness programs.

What is your response to the opioid crisis?

Tenney has held numerous roundtables, worked with parents and addicts, attempting to make progress toward “a tragedy of epic proportions.” Tenney claimed the president has put a record amount of money toward opioid addiction.

Brindisi contended that the repeal of The Affordable Care Act would have made the situation much worse. Brindisi believes that investment in prevention and treatment are necessary. The government must also “get tough” with drug companies and manufacturers who are fueling this epidemic.

 Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Should recreational marijuana be legalized in New York?

Brindisi contends the states should decide this issue, not the federal government. Tenney personally attacked Brindisi’s law “partner and mentor” for allegedly being involved in felony drug trafficking.

How would you address healthcare?

Brindisi stated that “The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been under a two year assault,” by people like Tenney, and that 40,000 people would have lost their health insurance if repeal efforts would have become law. “I don’t want to see anyone lose their health insurance,” Brindisi stated. He advocated for fixing the ACA and highlighted how hospitals in the district and AARP opposed GOP healthcare reform.

Tenney said the ACA is “imploding” and “destroying communities” throughout New York State. Tenney claimed she was trying to save hospitals and people, as individuals are spending “enormous amounts of money” on premiums. Tenney lauded the repeal of the individual mandate and her authorship of the bill that prohibited discrimination for people with preexisting conditions. “We have to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a patient driven system,” Tenney stated.

How would you strengthen legal protections for transgender people?

Tenney claimed to be one of the few people who supported transgender people being able to serve in the military, a determination that should based on readiness and left to Secretary Mattis. Tenney considers herself a “leader in the Republican Party” on this front and believes we should “respect all people.” Brindisi applauded her vote and echoed support for anti-discrimination efforts.

What is your response to the absence of people of color in campaign aids and challenges faced by racial minorities?

Brindisi said he has done a number of town halls in inner cities, such as Utica, and wants to help people wherever they are. Jobs and criminal justice reform at the federal level is a good start in efforts to “lift everyone up in this country.”  “I think he (Brindisi) is right,” Tenney said, there is discrimination that needs to be addressed.

The End of Debate Season

This debate was beneficial in touching on some previously unaddressed topics, including inequality, childcare, and discrimination. After nearly three full debates, both candidates also took a brief opportunity to compliment each other.

Outside spending in NY-22 has been higher than any other district in the state and is seventh most in the nation. There were over 12,000 political ads from campaigns, parties, and independent groups in the two months leading up to the election.

The contest could hardly be closer. Nearly all rating agencies view the race as a “toss-up,” though Five Thirty Eight predicts a Brindisi victory.

Earlier today, The Washington Post suggested Brindisi is “defying gravity” as a Democrat narrowly leading a district where most people approve of President Trump. This will be put to the test as voters go to the polls in just five days.

Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Professor of Government at Utica College. 

Read the NY-22 Minute for timely and comprehensive analysis of the campaign. 

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