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Candidates Debate In 43rd Senate District

Lucas Willard

Three candidates for New York’s 43rd state Senate District met for a debate Wednesday night in the Saratoga County town of Stillwater. 

Publicly financed elections, clean drinking water, and New York’s gun laws were in focus Wednesday night at the forum hosted by the League of Women Voters.

Two-term Republican incumbent Kathy Marchione was joined on stage by two political newcomers, Democrat Shaun Francis and Green Party candidate Joe Levy.

Audience members asked questions. The first, one that would come up multiple times during the hour-long debate, was what the candidates thought about publicly financing elections.

Francis, who worked professionally as a minor league baseball umpire before becoming a labor union organizer, claimed public financing was the only way to strip money out of politics.

“No union money, no corporation money, no special interest money. Publicly finance our elections, we solve this problem. That proposition was laid out by the governor this year. He said ‘please close it just for me’ and the Senate Republicans chose not to follow that,” said Francis.

Levy, who described himself as the only candidate on stage that does not look like a politician, gave a shorter answer, saying he supports public financing and pointed to the system used in recent municipal elections in New York City.

“It works in the city of New York where the city council elections are publicly financed and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work all over the state,” said Levy.

Marchione said she’s against public financing, saying taxpayers should not have to support a candidate they disagree with. She pointed to corruption and citedstatistics from 2009 showing abuse in the New York City model.

“1.7 million in taxpayer dollars was fraudulently matched. That money went toward at least six city council campaigns as well as Bill de Blasio’s campaign for New York City public advocate,” said Marchione.

The 43rd District runs from the upper Hudson Valley along the Vermont andMassachusetts borders and encompasses the Hudson River Superfund site as well as the communities of Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh, which have been grappling with water contaminated with the chemical PFOA.

Francis and Marchione traded barbs over the crises in the Rensselaer County communities.

Francis criticized Marchione for not speaking out against state officials for their perceived delayed response to the contamination.

“When the state’s failed response became more and more apparent, the Senator sided with Governor Cuomo and his failed response. When the people of Hoosick Falls were crying out for hearings to find out what happened, how we’re gonna solve it, what we’re going to do to prevent it from happening again, she fought against hearings, and she said she was doing that because she wanted to put filters in place. There’s no reason why we couldn’t be putting filters in place in Hoosick and not having hearings in Albany,” said Francis.

Marchione slammed Francis for a negative campaign billboard in Hoosick Falls depicting a cup of dirty water, saying it was detrimental to local business. She touted what she says she has accomplished for local residents.

“Making sure that the water systems for local schools were fixed before they went back, carbon filtration systems for personal wells, we made sure that six months of the water bills were paid for by the state, we had new landmark legislation. And I’m happy to say the mayor and supervisor of the Town of Hoosick are here and we are working proactively,” said Marchione.

Levy said he’d like to be more proactive in rooting out pollution problems before they’re started.

“Let’s take a close look at the industry around the state, look for the potential for pollution, try to find it before it affects the water table or people’s wells, and give rebates to locals who are not on municipal systems so they can go out and have their water tested,” said Levy.

On guns, Marchione touted her A+ rating from the National Rifle Association and spoke out against the SAFE Act gun control law.

“The opposition to it just does not go away. You see signs all over the place. It’sthe worst piece of legislation, I think, our legislature has ever passed,” said Marchione.

Francis said the law circumvented the Democratic process when the governor and legislative leaders flexed their political power.

Francis said Marchione has voted to keep the status quo in Albany.

“If the Senator was truly a champion for upstate New York and for gun rights, she would have voted for John DeFrancisco to be her party’s leader, a man who opposed the SAFE Act. But instead she voted for Long Island’s own JohnFlanagan, a man who worked with Governor Cuomo to pass the SAFE Act,” said Francis.

Levy, a gun owner, said he would’ve voted for the SAFE Act.

“I don’t really have a problem with the SAFE Act. The SAFE Act…I’d just assume not to see a proliferation of guns on the street. And if it came up again I would vote for it,” said Levy.

The candidates also tackled infrastructure and state education aid.

Much of the arguing was between the Democrat and Republican on stage. In a moment common thought, Francis acknowledged Marchione’s work with veterans and said if he were elected he would like to share ideas with Marchione.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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