The four candidates for New York's 19th Congressional District debated Monday afternoon at The Linda, WAMC's Performing Arts Studio.
First-term Republican John Faso, Democratic challenger Antonio Delgado, Green Party candidate Steve Greenfield and Independent Diane Neal engaged debated a variety of issues as the swing district race goes down to the final days.
Candidates were asked what they believe makes them qualified to serve in Congress. Greenfield reflected on his public service, which included time as a school board member ,and involvement in educational and environmental issues. Neal, best known as a “Law and Order” actor, says she is in the race to "do the best for the district" and brushed off insinuations that her candidacy is a spoiler in the race. Faso says he understands what is important to constituents. "I grew up with a working class family in a household where my dad was a TV repairman and the janitor at the local Catholic school that I went to. We worked hard. I went to SUNY Brockport. I got there and paid for my tuition that first year on the strength of my regents scholarship. I went to law school at Georgetown in Washington D.C., at night, four years, five nights a week, had to work during the day to pay for it."
Delgado touted his "life experience" and "diversity." "I grew up, as I noted, in Schenectady, working class family. Went to Colgate. Played basketball there, Division I by the way, upstate New York Basketball Hall of Fame, and was able to then go from there to law school, and then ultimately go off to L.A. and work in the hip-hop community, the come back and work as a litigator in the commercial space. I have worked with all types of individuals, all types of background, from different walks of life, and what we need right now more than ever, are individuals who have that life experience."
Delgado's association with hip-hop and his rap lyrics are the basis of attack ads — and one of the debate questions. "The nature of these attacks, they're grossly, grotesquely misleading and baseless and divisive at their core, and they speak to a climate right now in our politics that we can no longer tolerate. It gets in the way of solving real issues."
Faso thinks Delgado's rap lyrics are relevant. "Lyrics that are antagonistic to women, that are antagonistic to the American tradition, antagonistic to local law enforcement."
Greenfield pulled no punches, labeling the attack ads as "troubling," and produced campaign literature he said he had received in the mail. "Blue eyed and blonde women clutching their blonde children in dread fear of a black man whose come to their community."
Neal quoted Delgagdo, saying he shouldn't be penalized. "He was saying earlier, 'it adds to your experience as a human being.' I mean all of these things add up to your qualifications to make you a more well-rounded person."
Candidates weighed in on immigration and the "migrant caravan" making its way toward the United States border from South America.
Greenfield "I support DACA, of course I support a path to citizenship for the dreamers. But it's too small and too shortsighted a discussion to allow to stand on its own."
Neal: "We need a pathway for these workers whether the short-term or the long-term to be able to stay legally where they're protected."
Delgado: "We do have a broken immigration system that needs to be fixed. "
Faso "So we need to fix this immigration system. I am in the forefront of trying to do it.”