New York's 46th state Senate district candidates presented their campaign issues and agendas last night at the Guilderland Public Library during a “Meet The Candidates” event.
Incumbent Republican George Amedore and Democratic challenger Sara Niccoli answered questions read by a moderator from index cards handed out to audience members as they entered the auditorium. Questions flagged as provocative, personal or repetitive were filtered out.
Amedore took the first question on ethics reform, pledging to work hard to impose term limits on elected officials. Niccoli followed, joining Amedore in supporting pension forfeiture, then went on the offensive. "Our problem is legislators who are sitting there and not serving the people. This happens in two ways. One, legislators who put their other jobs first, in the case of George Amedore. George Amedore's first job is his real estate development firm, and it's no wonder that millions and millions of dollars from the real estate industry have been invested into his campaign. So what we have here is real estate developers giving to real estate developers to make real estate development policy on behalf of New Yorkers. Now what we really need is an elected leader who is going to put community first."
Candidates were on the same page when queried about the SAFE Act. Amedore cited a report released earlier in the day by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that 74 percent of guns used in crimes statewide originated in other states, and called for its repeal. "It has not stopped the flow of illegal guns, it has not stopped the flow of narcotics coming in, it has not stopped anything but make a law-abiding citizen now a lawbreaker. It infringes on our Constitutional rights and our amendment, the 2nd Amendment, the right to bear arms."
Niccoli responded: "I am absolutely a supporter of the 2nd Amendment, and I believe that it's really important that responsible gun owners are able to access firearms and use them as they need to and as they see fit."
Climate change was a sharp point of dissension, Amedore lauding New York's development of solar power while acknowledging a change in weather patterns, calling for "good public policy" when it comes to environmental issues. Niccoli wasn't buying it. "I think it's incredibly, incredibly dangerous, to have a New York state Senator who doesn't believe that people are causing the climate to change."
The candidates agreed that the state should make PILOT payments to the city of Albany's budget to help fund services provided due to the legislature sitting in Albany.
Amedore and Niccoli tackled a variety of other issues including women's reproductive rights, pipelines, education, closing the LLC loophole and the heroin epidemic.
The crowd reflected a 50-50 blend splitting support for the two candidates, both of whom were well-received. But Niccoli was booed whenever she appeared to channel phraseology used by Cecilia Tkaczyk, who won the 46th seat in the first election to the new district she said "was carved out for George Amedore." Niccoli, who is the town supervisor of Palatine, as well as director of the Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State, also tried tying Amedore to Donald Trump, but the audience, which had provided all of the questions candidates fielded during the forum, seemed more interested in district politics.
Over the summer, Niccoli was called out on an anonymous Facebook Page for not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Niccoli told WTEN that, as a Quaker, she doesn’t recite pledges or oaths but does put her hand on her heart whenever the pledge is being read. She felt that Amedore supporters were targeting her religious beliefs, and reiterated that stance last week at the Albany Democrats’ debate party at Martel's Restaurant: "When I hear a presidential nominee talk about potentially not accepting the outcome of a democratic election, it scares me and it concerns me. And I will say this is also reflected in my own local election. In my own race, the main attack against me has been on my religion and on my faith. And so I really think that this trickling down from the national level to the local level with George Amedore going after my faith as the main criticism of me as a candidate."
Amedore responded after the forum concluded: "I have never attacked her religion or her faith. She has the right as a free American to choose who she believes in, what she believes in. We have the Constitution that I am a firm believer in, that we should uphold, and that Constitution affords us religious freedom and liberties. So kudos to her if she believes in a God that brings love and peace and justice to all."
Below: Audio from the forum, in two parts.
The forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Albany and Schenectady counties, Altamont Free Library and Guilderland Public Library.
The 46th consists of all of Montgomery and Greene counties, along with portions of Albany, Schenectady and Ulster counties. Amedore and Niccoli will again lock horns Thursday morning in Kingston at a candidates’ forum sponsored by the Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce.