The final debate in the rematch for New York’s 22nd Congressional District brought in several people not on the stage, from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to financier George Soros, police officers, farmers and people younger than 25.
In a debate hosted at Mohawk Valley Community College with no audience and questions from a panel of journalists from Nexstar Media Group television stations in the district, former Congresswoman Republican Claudia Tenney and first-term Democrat Anthony Brindisi both invoked other people to make points for both themselves and against their opponents.
Several times Tenney invoked Pelosi as a symbol of what she called a “radical left” agenda and to say Brindisi voted with more than 90% of the time.
“You don’t vote with Nancy Pelosi 90% of the time and call yourself a moderate,” she said.
Tenney also linked Brindisi to Cuomo, saying he helped the governor while Brindisi was an Assemblyman to create a monopoly of internet and cable service for Charter Communication’s Spectrum brand. And she invoked Soros as a source of money for liberal causes she said Brindisi backed and for voting in favor of impeaching Trump.
Brindisi, though, fired back, referring to his narrow win over Tenney in 2018 and seeking to contrast his having six bills he sponsored signed by President Trump as a sign of his willingness to work with Republicans pragmatically, while saying Tenney had none of her bills passed while she was in Congress.
To a question regarding farmers, Brindisi touted his support aimed at increasing mental health training for U.S. Department of Agriculture personnel, while Tenney blamed hardships in part on government rules that interfere with the dairy and beef industries.
Brindisi invoked a law calling on the Defense Department to buy domestic flatware to the benefit of Sherrill Manufacturing, the only U.S. based maker. Tenney introduced the bill but it was in a Republican-only defense spending bill, Brindisi said.
“We’re seeing exactly why voters in this district fired Ms. Tenney from this job, and now she wants to be rehired. The fact is we got the SPOONS Act passed because we made it bi-partisan. … We actually we found a Republican to co-sponsor it with me, and I got it done.”
He added in his closing: “This district fired Ms. Tenney two years ago because she didn’t show up. She didn’t hold town hall meetings … she spent more time listening to the special interest groups.”
The debate covered ground from earlier debates and in television ads and press statements. Tenney cited her endorsement from several police unions and associations and accused Brindisi of voting for bills that would reduce federal funds for police. “I’m going to back the police,.” she said. Brindisi denied the charge, pointing out he voted to increase funding for a program supporting police training and equipment and hiring.
Several times Brindisi mentioned having six bills signed by President Trump and invoked his membership in the half-Republican, half-Democratic Problem Solvers Caucus of House members from mixed or moderate districts.
On a question regarding climate change and floods, Tenney briefly acknowledged the climate is changing and has to be addressed, but said the state Department of Environmental Conservation has prioritized wildlife over the human environment. Brindisi accused Tenney of taking campaign money from gas and oil companies and voting to gut regulations. He also said he would work to return the United States to the international Paris Accords seeking a reduction in greenhouse gases.
On a question on appealing to young voters, Tenney said she is independent, as young voters tend to be, and alleged Brindisi not having to face a primary shows he is beholden to party bosses. Brindisi responded that Tenney has primaries because “not even Republicans like her.”
Tenney also invoked Cuomo and the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on nursing home residents. Tenney was asked if anything President Trump has done has given her pause. “Absolutely not,” she said. “He has stood up for our American values. … “The one thing he might have wanted to do is maybe take a little bit more control over people like Andrew Cuomo and deal directly with the nursing home issue, something my opponent has refused to do.”