22nd District candidates debate issues, each others’ records

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A debate Thursday between candidates for New York’s 22nd Congressional District covered familiar ground on issues and who is most beholden to special interests.

Public radio and television station WSKG-TV of Binghamton hosted the debate Thursday evening between incumbent Utica Democrat Anthony Brindisi, former Congresswoman Republican Claudia Tenney of New Hartford, and Binghamton-area Libertarian Keith Price. The candidates fielded questions on topics ranging from environmental protection to the Supreme Court, immigration, health care and internet and cable television service. But Brindisi and Tenney, who are in a major-party rematch of a race two years ago that came down to absentee ballots counted weeks after Election Day, spent much of the nearly hour long debate attacking each other’s record and defending themselves, beginning with introductions.

Tenney invoked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying Brindisi voted with her 90% of the time and for impeaching President Donald Trump. “We have a stark choice between someone who is going to preserve American greatness or surrender to socialism.”

Brindisi, a Democrat in a district with more registered Republicans and which strongly supported Trump in 2016, mentioned having six of his sponsored bills signed into law by Trump.

“My predecessor had a different record. She worked more with special-interest groups and the corporations that bankrolled her campaign. That’s why she voted to undermine health care and gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions.”

On health care, Brindisi touted a House-based bill to protect insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions and to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices and to cap expenses for seniors, and said Tenney has spoken against the measure.

Tenney responded that the Affordable Care Act has driven up premiums and deductibles, while she introduced legislation protecting pre-existing conditions while in Congress. Price advocated market-based competitive approaches.

On immigration, Tenney touted her own help for refugees, particularly Bosnians in the Utica area, and backed a way for children brought in by parents to obtain citizenship, but said borders must be secure and immigrants should follow the legal process. Brindisi denied Tenney’s charge that he voted to open borders, and cited efforts to bring in more farm labor.

On police reform, all expressed sympathy for people killed by police and backed increased training and mental health services, but also expressed support for police. Tenney cited her endorsement of several police unions and accused Brindisi’s law firm of representing people suing police, while she wants to keep qualified immunity for officers. Brindisi cited his support for legislation preventing cities from defunding police.

Price said money for giving semi-military equipment to police could be diverted to mental health services and improved training.

Tenney and Brindisi accused one another of giving into Charter Communications and its Spectrum cable and internet service for campaign financial support. Tenney said Brindisi took “dark money” from Spectrum despite claiming to turn down special-interest political action committee money and supported with Gov. Andrew Cuomo a deal that gave the company a monopoly when he was in the Assembly, while Brindisi said Tenney took Spectrum money and supported a tax cut for the company in the 2017 federal tax reform bill. Tenney said congress can do little about internet and cable service, while Brindisi said he backed money for a federal investigation into Spectrum and Tenney backed a law allowing internet companies to sell personal information.

For his part, Price espoused cooperation and market driven approaches to internet service and health care and politics in general. He called for a stimulus package but suggested a holiday on payroll and income taxes for a period to get money to people, and suggested third-party candidates who go “beyond D and R, red and blue.”

Price also spoke out against the term “illegal alien,” a term Tenney used in response to a question about immigration, in saying Brindisi voted for a package that would give stimulus checks to immigrants, and in her closing statement to link Brindisi to bills that would divert resources to immigrants.

“There is no such thing as an illegal human being,” Price said. “I cannot stomach when we call someone an illegal. They may not be here based on our jurisdictional system, they may not be here based on our laws, but that never makes a human being an illegal.”

WSKG plans to archive the debate coverage on its website, wskg.org.

The debate was a partnership between WSKG Public Media, The League of Women Voters of Broome and Tioga Counties, SUNY-Broome Civic Engagement Center, SUNY-Broome History, Philosophy and Social

Sciences Department, Binghamton University Center for Civic Engagement, and The Andrew Goodman Foundation Vote Everywhere Initiative.

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