The Ulster County Chamber of Commerce hosted a congressional candidate debate Thursday morning in Kingston. Four candidates for New York’s 19th District took turns answering questions on issues ranging from health care to small business to climate change.
First-term Republican Congressman John Faso, Democrat Antonio Delgado, Green Party candidate Steve Greenfield and Independent Diane Neal each had two minutes to answer questions generated by chamber members prior to the forum. Delgado, of Rhinebeck, who emphasized he would fight for the working class, was the first to deliver closing remarks.
“There’s a cruelty and an immorality that is coursing through our country’s political veins. And we need to stop with the baseless, personal nastiness out there and get back to the substance, get back to the work, get back to good government,” Delgado said. “If we do this, we can turn this thing around. And that’s why and that’s why I hope to have your support.”
Faso, in his closing remarks, emphasized his bipartisanship, as well as his work on stemming the opioid crisis. Throughout the forum, Faso tied Delgado to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and echoed a frequent criticism of Democrats in this district in recent elections by labeling Delgado a carpetbagger.
“My friend over here who just moved into the district last year, when he votes in November, it will be the very first time he’s ever cast a ballot for Congress in this district,” Faso said. “He has no experience or dedication in this district. He just moved in and a week later decided to run for Congress. We’ve seen this act before.”
Here’s Delgado after the forum.
“Can’t we talk about the issues? Can we just do that? Is that possible? And maybe it’s because those issues don’t work for him. I don’t know. We’ve got a lot of work to do, whether it’s the health care crisis, the climate change crisis, wage stagnation, we’ve got to get to a point here where we’re actually thinking about solutions and not just running to personal attacks that are baseless, at that,” says Delgado. “As I’ve said repeatedly, I’m upstate born, from Schenectady, parents still there. Can we move past this now?”
“I think the starkest contrast is your philosophy of government. I don’t believe that every problem has a federal solution. And I think he does,” says Faso. “He wants to go down there to be part of Nancy Pelosi’s band and go back to that some old big government, high-tax tune.”
Reached later in the day, Greenfield says he felt that the audience walked away with a much better understanding of his policy views and the Green Party.
“And I think that a lot of headway was made. I think that the distinction, a lot of people are under the misconception that candidates like me are somehow more progressive or more pure forms of the traditional liberal presentation,” Greenfield says. “And I feel quite certain that the forum today made clear to everybody in the audience that that’s not the case.”
Delgado, Faso and Greenfield differed in their approaches to health care, taxes and addressing climate change. Lorraine Salmon is executive director of the SUNY Ulster College Foundation and says she appreciated the forum, though four candidates speaking during one hour precluded a more substantive discussion.
“Well, I think it’s a great start. It is what it is,” says Salmon. “We’re grateful to the chamber for putting it together. So I love that there’s a forum where all the locals can come together and get an initial feel of their candidates, and know where they want to dig in and go find out more.”
Neal, who won a court appeal earlier this week over petition signatures to get back on the ballot, was accommodated at the forum advertised for the other three candidates. The Hurley, Ulster County, resident and actor touted her independence from any political party, but offered little on policy talk. Neal said she is running because no one is advocating for the district. And she addresses whether she would be taking votes away from another candidate.
“Nobody wants to be a Jill Stein, nobody wants to be a Nadar, nobody wants to be those people, like the spoiler but, again, this is a false binary,” says Neal. “First of all, there should be more choices. Second of all, the largest voting bloc in this district are unaffiliated voters, so technically they’re splitting my vote, if you want to look at it that way.”
There has been little polling in the race. A Siena poll out in late August shows Faso with a slim, 5-point lead over Delgado. A Monmouth poll this month had Delgado up 2. The 19th Congressional District stretches across 11 counties and is considered a swing district.