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NY-21 Congressional Candidates Meet In Testy Debate

Republican Elise Stefanik (left) and Democrat Tedra Cobb
photos provided
Republican Elise Stefanik (left) and Democrat Tedra Cobb

Both candidates running for New York’s 21st Congressional district seat are declaring victory following a tempestuous debate on WWNY in Watertown Monday night.
New York’s 21st Congressional District stretches from Plattsburgh west to Watertown and near Syracuse north to the Canadian border. Republican Elise Stefanik, seeking a fourth term, faces a rematch against her 2018 opponent, Democrat Tedra Cobb.

Their first televised debate was testy, sometimes sounding like the first presidential debate. The candidates argued, and often spoke over each other, the moderator and panelists — and avoided answering questions.  

The animosity between the two was apparent as soon as the first question was asked and increased as each question was posed. Panelist John Moore directed a question on the pandemic stimulus to Stefanik.  “What can be done to get agreement in Congress to get relief to the North Country people who need it and shouldn’t the public blame both Democrats and Republicans for lack of another bill so far?”
Stefanik:  “I believe we need a bipartisan package that funds K-12 schools, an additional round of the Paycheck Protection Program as well as increased funding for hospitals and tests.  But make no mistake my opponent will say she supports that. She changed her position on this very issue.”
Moderator Jeff Cole:  “So let’s hear from Miss Cobb.”
Tedra Cobb:  “Tonight you are going to hear Elise Stefanik say lots of things about me that are just not true.”
Stefanik:  “And you’ll hear Tedra Cobb running from her record.”
Cole:  “This is Miss Cobb’s time.”
Cobb:  “I’m going to start.We need more Paycheck Protection Program and unfortunately Elise Stefanik says that she’s bipartisan but yet she this sort of vitriol and argument and sticking her feet in the mud and not working with others to get us what we need.”
Stefanik:  “Tedra Cobb is running from her statements and record and now she’s shifting her position just like she does on guns, on trade and defense spending.”
Cole:  “So Miss Cobb are you shifting your position?”
Cobb:  “No of course I’m not.”

The hour-long debate kept moderator Jeff Cole on alert with similar exchanges throughout. Cobb’s focus during both her challenges has been health care.  “Elise Stefanik has not given you her plan.  She has talked about me but not her plan. She has voted five times to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to strip away protections for people with pre-existing conditions.”
Stefanik:  “We deserve better health care that’s more affordable. Obamacare is not working. We need to ensure people have coverage for pre-existing conditions, can purchase health care across state lines.”
Cobb:  “But she voted against it!”
Stefanik:  “But my opponent is running from her own campaign platform.”
Cole:  “Let me, let me go to Miss Cobb for a response. 15 seconds.”
Cobb:   “Lets be clear. Lets be clear. Elise Stefanik voted five times, fives times…”
Stefanik:   “…for better health care.”
(The candidates begin talking over each other)
Cobb:  “…five times to repeal.”
Stefanik:  “…for better health care. You supported Medicare for All.”  
Cobb:  “You voted five times five times to repeal the Affordable Care Act.”
Stefanik:  “With a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. You are running from your record on Medicare for All.”
Cobb:  “No no that is Elise Stefanik’s record.”
Stefanik:  “…on Medicare for All.”
Cole: “Hang on hang on Let’s get Miss Cobb to answer.”
Cobb: “She voted to take away your health care let’s be clear.”
Stefanik:  “And let me be clear my opponent would cancel health care for everyone with private insurance.”
Cobb:  “No I wouldn’t. Maybe you need to study a Medicare Public Option.”
Cole:  “So ladies I want to get on to the next question Thank you very much.”
Cobb:  “I have come forward with a plan. Where is your plan?”

Cobb avoided a specific answer when asked if she supports the idea of expanding the Supreme Court.  “What’s happening now is a distrust for the Supreme Court and that will take years to undo. Now I am running for Congress. I am not running for Senate. So therefore I think this is a great question for the President and Joe Biden to answer and for the Senate candidates to answer.”
Cole:  “Would you support packing the court though?”
Cobb:  “But in Congress this isn’t going to be a vote that I will ever…”
Stefanik:  “Yes it is.”
Cole:  “But do you have an opinion?”
Cobb:  “I have I I don’t think it’s an appropriate opinion. I’m not running for Senate.”
Cole:  “Okay Ms. Stefanik?”
Stefanik:  “So this is, she is fundamentally misinformed. That would have to be updated by the United States Congress. That would be a vote in the House and the Senate. It’s not a Senate nomination. Court packing and adding additional seats to the court would come before the House. It’s a vote you have to take. I’m opposed to court packing.”

The candidates were called out for name calling and negative advertising. Stefanik claimed her attacks illustrate policy issues.  “I stand by those ads because those are important policy differences.”
Cole:  “Thank you very much and Miss Cobb?”
Cobb:  “Thank you. I don’t think name calling is policy difference.”

Stefanik went on the offense when asked about a New York Times investigation showing President Trump paid just $750 in taxes the year he was elected.  “The President is right. He has paid millions of dollars of taxes. I publically called for him to release his tax returns. My opponent hasn’t released any tax returns. I’ve released multiple tax returns of my own.”
Cole:  “Miss Cobb?”
Cobb:  “I first want to start by saying Elise Stefanik says that she supports the President in releasing his taxes but she voted against a bill that would have forced the President, any presidential candidate, from releasing those taxes. I do have my taxes on my website.”

Audio is courtesy of WWNY Watertown.  The two candidates will debate on MyNBC5 Wednesday evening.

A link to the full debate is here.

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