Candidates for mayor in Hudson, New York debated Thursday night.
Mayor Rick Rector and challenger 1st Ward Alderman Kamal Johnson are running in the June 25th Democratic primary. They debated at the Montgomery C. Smith Elementary School. Both candidates are in their first term.
Columbia-Greene Media Executive Editor Mary Dempsey and Columbia Paper Editor and Publisher Parry Teasdale moderated.
Each candidate gave a two-minute opening statement. Johnson fired the first volley. "I wanna thank everyone for being at the assembly tonight; this is a very exciting moment for me. I wanna give a shout-out to the incumbent who let me know that a last minute change of rules said we could not bring in notes, and then the incumbent shows up with notes so... that's an interesting way to start the evening."
Rector, nearing the end of his first term, said "two years is not enough." "It has been the greatest privilege to be your mayor for the past year and a half, and tonight I'm going to humbly ask for another two-year term and hopefully give you the reasons why I should have that two-year term."
The moderators each asked two questions followed by other questions submitted by audience members. The candidates did not know the questions ahead of time.
Johnson was asked to define his commitment to economic and social justice, highlighted in his campaign literature. He answered he will stand up for everyone. "It's important to speak for the people that don't have a voice. There's a lot of people in this room today but there's a lot more that couldn't make it."
Rector countered that the "One Hudson" program already addresses those issues and brings community members together. "Coming up with real answers and real solutions is what we're all about. And I do think the city is a little bit better off. I do believe in One Hudson I will continue to talk about One Hudson because I think it reflects exactly what you're talking about.
The debate also touched on the city budget, parking, housing, elder care, police-community relations and government transparency. When it came to prosperity — controlling spending and increasing revenue and bringing new jobs to the area — Rector said it’s one of the biggest challenges he's faced as mayor. "There are more jobs in Hudson than there were probably five years ago. I think it's important to talk about bringing new businesses in and developing economic development in the city and to create an atmosphere where both the citizens and outside developers are comfortable coming into the community."
Johnson said he is largely focused on improving transparency. "Right now the school district has a vote and citizens are actually scared to vote for that budget because of assessments and taxes. We need a real partnership with the school district so that we're giving voters, we're giving citizens the exact information they need to make an informed vote."
Rector has endorsements from both the Democratic and Republican parties. He previously served as alderman.
Johnson is endorsed by the Working Families Party. He is currently Co-Director of the Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood, the Coordinator of POPS, a community fatherhood initiative, and he co-hosts a radio show on WGXC, which provided the debate audio.