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AARP Hosts NY-19 Tele Town Halls With Faso, Delgado

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AARP New York recently held separate telephone town halls with two candidates in the 19th Congressional District — Republican Congressman John Faso and Democrat Antonio Delgado. Earlier this month, AARP released a poll showing Delgado leading the race 43 percent to 36 percent among older voters.

AARP New York’s David McNally hosted the calls as part of the organization’s “Be The Difference. Vote” campaign.

“The 2018 midterm elections are shaping up to incredibly important,” McNally says. “Critical issues like Medicare, Social Security, caregiving, the high cost of prescription drugs and our financial security are all on the line.”

The questions McNally posed to the candidates were the same, starting with what they would do, if anything, to protect and strengthen Medicare. Here’s Faso:

“Make sure the trustees and we are working together to ensure solvency of the system but also take some concrete steps, as we’ve already begun, on drug pricing, which is a major cost driver right now,” Faso says.

Here’s Delgado.

“I’ve been very clear about my position on this,” says Delgado. “I believe it is important that we open it up to everybody, give everybody the choice to opt into Medicare.”

AARP members number about 137,000 in NY-19. Faso says, in terms of driving down drug prices, the U.S. should allow the import of pharmaceuticals from other major industrialized countries that have performed extensive reviews and clinical trials. Plus, he says:

“We’re also trying to get the FDA, and the FDA is moving in this regard, to get more generics on the market more quickly and to prevent the large drug companies from using bureaucratic delay and stall tactics from precluding generic products from getting on the market,” Faso says.

Antonio Delgado:

“This is one of the most important issues for me. When people ask me, what do you want to do to help our health care crisis bring down the cost health care, in addition to fighting for a public option, I want to make sure Medicare has negotiating power with big pharma,” Delgado says. “This is a very important distinction between myself and the current congressman.”

Each call contained questions that were in a different vein. Mary Ann from Amenia in Dutchess County had this question for Faso.

“I’d like to know what specific actions you’ll take to decrease some of the divisiveness between the political parties and how you’re going to distinguish your voting record as representing all of the constituents in the district,” she asked.   

“I think it’s an important questions. We live in a highly polarized environment, where there is a lot of division. So one of the things that I have done in the last year and a half that I’ve been privileged to serve in Congress is I have worked consciously to try to work with my colleagues across the aisle. And I’ve developed many good relationships with other members of Congress who are not in my party.”

And Faso cited a statistic he has touted during his re-election campaign — The Lugar Center-McCourt School Bipartisan Index.

“I rank 18 out of 435 members of the House as being most bipartisan,” Faso says. “I think that’s pretty good.”

Joan from Livingston Manor in Sullivan County posed this question to Delgado.

“I’m eager to know what a good leader, such as you, could do to ameliorate the absolute ugliness and divisiveness that sits upon our country now,” she asked.

“That is a great question, Joan, and I think it is so important we solve this issue. The lack of civility, the lack of decency, the lack of respect and love and compassion in our politics has reached a fever pitch,” says Delgado. “And it is imperative that we restore some dignity and class to this process.”

Delgado spoke to the importance of bringing diverse experiences to elected office. He added:

“We need moral leadership, not just political leadership,” Delgado says. “We need moral leadership.”

There were more off-topic questions during the call with Delgado, including about term limits, climate change, democracy, medical marijuana and jobs and the economy. Meantime, John from Monticello in Sullivan County asked Faso about his vote on the bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, saying the process seemed rushed.

“And I understand that Mr. Faso was a deciding vote to let it go out of the committee to the full House vote,” says John. “And so I’m just questioning why he allowed that to go through when the process seemed so flawed.”

“I think the thing for us to remember is that, and the whole business about, oh, you were the deciding vote… I see that there are TV ads out there about that. That was a vote in the budget committee to move forward with a budget resolution, which they later attached the health care bill to,” says Faso. “So I was certainly supportive of trying to reform the aspects of the Affordable Care Act but, at the time we voted on this in committee, it was not the full legislation that we had later voted on. I did support the bill.”

An AARP spokesman says 3,060 people joined the tele town hall with Faso, while 2,650 participated in Delgado’s. Harry from Monticello questioned Delgado about health care and cost.

“He has a lot of big plans for health care and promising, making a lot of promises,” Harry says. “And I’d like to know how he can get through with all those promises and not raise taxes dramatically.”

In part, Delgado responded:

“The cost to achieve the programs that I want actually pay for themselves. Here’s what I mean. I am not advocating for a government takeover of health care. I am advocating for a public option. A public option allows people to buy into the system,” says Delgado. “And so people are actually paying into the system for the care they need, and it’s creating more resources to administer the funding. That is a critical, critical piece.”

He added that recent tax reforms cut into Medicare and other health programs.

Faso said it is important to preserve Social Security and that it would make sense to create a bipartisan commission to look into and explain the issue. Delgado says preserving Social Security is vitally important, but he says the way it is being paid for should change. And he underscored that he does not want to privatize Social Security.

Although 50-plus voters make up New York’s and the nation’s largest voting bloc and consistently turn out more often than younger voters, McNally says many still do not vote in midterm elections. In NY-19, he says there were 58,000 voters age 50 and older who voted in the 2016 presidential election and not in the 2014 midterms.

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