A crowd of around 200 turned out on Aug. 29 as incumbent state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) and challenger John Messer, a business owner and attorney, faced off at a state Senate District 16 Candidates Forum held in Flushing for the Democratic Primary.
The candidates see eye to eye on many of the major issues, with gay marriage and charter schools being among their primary areas of disagreement.
“Gay marriage is the law of the state of New York,” said Messer, who was met with a round of boos when he added, “People in this district do not support gay marriage.”
Stavisky said, “I don’t believe in discrimination. If you are opposed to discrimination, you can’t pick and choose who you discriminate against.”
On charter schools, which are publicly funded but operate without many of the restrictions on regular city schools, including teachers union rules, the two candidates took opposite tacks.
A former high school teacher, Stavisky said, “I have not seen evidence where a child going to a charter school does any better than a child going to public school. The mayor would like to see an end to public schools .. .a serious mistake.”
Messer, on the other hand, sees charter school s as a positive form of competition for the public school system and a possible way of alleviating the overcrowded schools in the area.
The challenger also took a swipe at the incumbent when he said that, in general in the capital, “The problem is senators who have been there too long. I’ve always supported term limits.”
“We have term limits. They’re called elections,” Stavisky retorted.
The primary is Sept. 13. The full version of this story will appear in the Sept. 6 Queens Chronicle.