With election day almost a week away, Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi, Republican former U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney and Libertarian Keith Price, candidates for New York’s 22nd congressional district, went head-to-head in a televised debate Thursday night.
New York’s 22nd congressional district is comprised of Chenango, Cortland, Madison and Oneida counties in addition to sections of Broome, Herkimer, Oswego and Tioga counties. The debate, hosted by local news network WSKG and the League of Women Voters, gave candidates a chance to make their cases on various issues such as COVID-19, health care, racial justice and climate change.
On the topic of COVID-19, candidates were asked whether they supported a new relief package.
Price said his solution would include going on a tax holiday for nine months to a year where the federal, state and county governments would repeal or temporarily pause all payroll and income taxes in order to put money directly in the checks of Americans.
Tenney discussed the financial crisis that small businesses have faced during the pandemic and repeatedly challenged Brindisi’s voting records during the height of the pandemic. She later expressed that she would support a stimulus package to help local communities.
Brindisi noted that he joined the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group in the U.S. House of Representatives comprised of 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans that work to come up with bipartisan solutions on key issues. The caucus has previously worked to address state and local assistance to school districts, job loss, small businesses, child care, food banks and funding for farmers.
Candidates were also asked about health care and how they would ensure that those who are currently covered would not lose coverage.
Brindisi said he was involved in passing a bill that would protect people with preexisting conditions and offer essential health benefits, so that insurance companies would no longer be able to discriminate between maternal care, prescription drug coverage and emergency room treatment.
“There are so many different things in there that are so important that if we could just stop all the attacks on the Affordable Care Act and shore it up — then we could look at what is truly driving up the cost of health care in this county,” Brindisi said. “The number one culprit is the high cost of prescription drugs.”
Price spoke about introducing a free-market health care system, where high prices are driven down by competition rather than by government regulation. He later stated that Americans should be allowed to look into services offered by surrounding countries to create competition, which would eventually drive down costs for Americans to afford their needs.
Tenney said she had voted for a bill during her previous term that guaranteed that people with preexisting conditions would be covered.
“It’s personal to me,” Tenney said. “I have people in my family who have insulin-dependent diabetes and many of those other issues that need to be covered. I’m the person in this room who won two national awards for preserving our public health care system. I worked with President Trump to increase funding for those public health care centers.”
The topic of racial justice brought upon the question of whether police department funding should be reallocated to address issues such as mental health or addiction. All candidates agreed that the deaths that occurred due to police brutality were unjust, but offered varying suggestions on how to approach it.
Tenney said elected officials must protect our police forces and instead increase funding. She later accused Brindisi of voting on a bill to defund the police, which he responded to by stating that he does not in fact support the defunding of police forces.
Brindisi said that he has introduced bipartisan legislation that would prohibit cities from defunding the police and called for a doubling of the U.S. Department of Justice ‘s Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant, which gives grants to hire community policing professionals, employ new policing strategies and provide assistance to communities and law enforcement. Brindisi also talked about investing in mental health and substance abuse treatment to alleviate the responsibilities of officers.
“We need to make sure at the federal level that we have accountability within our police departments, and we ensure that there is proper training for police and that we have a more just and fair criminal justice system for everybody,” Brindisi said. “We want to make sure we have officers engaged in the community, building trust and that’s how we can solve some of these issues.”
Price emphasized the idea that all lives matter and how mistakes, poor choices and bad decisions on the part of police officers gives the entire police force a negative and undeserved reputation. Price called for funding from police departments to be used to buy “pseudo-military goods” and reinvest excess money into mental health care treatment and advanced training programs. He concluded by stating that the federal government does not have all the answers and that he would like to see communities address this on their own to determine strategies that work for them.
Finally, candidates were asked to address the ongoing climate crisis that threatens the world and whether they support a fee or a tax on carbon to fight climate change.
Brindisi emphasized the importance of listening to the scientific community and acting in a timely manner. Brindisi called for a return to the Paris Agreement and an investment in energy incentives, energy efficiency programs and a diverse energy portfolio that focuses on clean energy. He also expressed that he would like to see an infrastructure bill that would work to invest in green technology while upgrading and modernizing the New York energy grid.
Price said that he sees nothing wrong with preparing our nation for the future and demanding clean air, water and food supplies but is against adding a carbon tax. Price opts for individuals in each community to hold corporations accountable for their carbon contributions. He later suggested that he would want to wait for more accurate and definitive information to be provided from individuals across the country and not the federal government before moving forward.
“I’m not a scientist, and I’ve read and listened a lot to various opinions,” Price said. “There are some who will tell you that climate change is a fact while others will tell you it is a myth. Me, personally, I’m not sure where I stand. So, let’s work together to work forward, do what is right now, think about the future and then as information increases, adjust accordingly.”
Tenney agrees that in order to move forward, officials must look at the science. She touched upon her issues with the Green New Deal and stated that it would destroy the economy and ultimately hurt upstate New York. She also expressed her concurrence with the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement because she believes that China should take more accountability.
“If we had responsible and safe gas drilling here, we could transform the economy, and we are struggling right now,” Tenney said. “It has transformed our communities, lowered carbon emissions, so I agree that science needs to take hold. It has also brought about independence to this country and Middle-East peace. When it comes to climate, I don’t think we need any more taxes on our farmers or our businesses. Let’s give them a chance to grow out of this terrible pandemic.”