A crowd of about 100 constituents turned out Tuesday night for the Bay Terrace Community Alliance’s Meet the Candidates Forum, which featured eight hopefuls seeking five different positions.
Gubernatorial incumbent Andrew Cuomo is being challenged in the Sept. 9 Democratic primary by law professor Zephyr Teachout and political satirist Randy Credico.
Calling herself a “very traditional Democrat,” Teachout indicated that she is running because “New York is a first-rate state which has third-rate politics.” Her vision includes establishing the best public schools in the country, investing in public transportation and banning fracking.
She called for the decriminalization of marijuana, saying, “Current laws divide people along class lines. Not everyone can afford an inhaler.”
Regarding suggested changes in FAA flight operations that would reduce noise pollution over northeast Queens, she admitted that “it’s a new issue for me.”
As Cuomo’s campaign continues to take criticism over his silence on the Moreland Commission he appointed to investigate matters of corruption, Teachout used Tuesday night as an opportunity to label Cuomo’s silence as a “failure in leadership.”
“You’ll always know where I stand. “Silence doesn’t help you move forward,” she said.
Credico, whose major campaign issues include the legalization of marijuana, raising the New York minimum wage to $15, and the imposition of a 1 percent sales tax on Wall Street transactions, briefly turned the Bay Terrace Jewish Center, where the forum took place, into a stand-up comedy club.
“I want to dislodge Andrew Cuomo,” he said in a rare moment of seriousness, admitting, “Cuomo is going to be tough to beat.”
Democratic state Senate 11th District incumbent Tony Avella and hopeful John Liu, embroiled in one of the hottest political races of the year, each fielded questions on a wide variety of issues.
Avella, seeking re-election to his third term in the Senate, addressed his affiliation with the Independent Democratic Conference, a faction with an alliance with Senate Republicans that angered the Queens Democratic organization. He said that joining paved the way for him to get 17 bills passed and obtain $6.5 million for projects in the district. However, he is hoping for a Democratic majority in the Senate following the November election.
On other issues, he said, “We lost the commuter tax over a state Senate seat. We need to get it back. I’d be happy to introduce the bill.”
He termed the long delays in getting cases heard in small claims court “unacceptable,” and indicated that 16- and 17-year-olds lack the level of maturity to become voting members of community boards, which the City Council voted to allow.
Avella said he leads the state Legislature in trying to ban hydrofracking, which he called the single most important environmental issue in the last 100 years.
“I hate politics,” he admitted. “I do what I think is right.”
In his opening statement, Liu, a former city comptroller and councilman, promised to try to preserve the quality of life for his constituents, to use his experience as comptroller to assure a state budget that would be favorable to schools, libraries, parks and senior centers and to reduce property tax burdens on co-op owners.
When questioned as to accusations of inappropriate campaign fundraising when he ran for mayor last year and a $525,000 fine that he still owes the city for allegedly illegally hanging posters during his run for comptroller, he responded, “They came after me. I was very rigorous in my work as comptroller. I had an investment record that no one could criticize. At the end of the day, there was nothing they could accuse me of. I am now the most thoroughly investigated candidate in the history of New York City.”
He indicated that he contested the fines imposed for the illegal posters and that they were “absolutely dismissed.” City Hall reissued summonses for the alleged violations, he said, and he is appealing. “If my campaign is found liable for that money, I will certainly pay it,” he said.
He said he supports the reinstatement of the NYC commuter tax, admitting it would be “politically difficult,” and said he is “adamantly opposed” to fracking. “It’s a pretty crazy practice,” he said. “
Steve Israel and Grant Lally are both seeking election to Congress in the 3rd District. Incumbent Democrat Israel indicated there are local, national and international issues of importance. “I lean to the right on national security issues when it comes to Israel,” he said, adding that he has had “pronounced disagreements” with the president over Israel.
On the economy, he said, “You don’t build the middle class by giving big corporations corporate tax loopholes to allow them to ship jobs overseas. You build the middle class by giving corporations tax incentives” to expand in this country.
He said he is “100 per cent irrevocably supportive of efforts to make guns safer,” favoring triple locks and “every reasonable mechanism to reduce the number of gun deaths.”
His Republican challenger, Lally, believes that “many of our freedoms are slipping away.” He accused the president of using the federal government as a political weapon. “Partisan atmosphere in Washington has become toxic,” he said. “We need to reach across party lines.”
He supports the principal of term limits, he said. “I like the idea of democracy.”
He believes in the right to own guns, but “I also believe in the public’s right to be safe.”
In his closing statement, he offered his support of the state of Israel, said he believes in lower taxes, and indicated a need to create good, high-paying jobs.
He supports the commuter tax, saying, “Repealing it was a big mistake,” but sees it as “an uphill climb to get it back.”
Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Christopher Moss, running on a ticket with Rob Astorino for governor, listed his major platform issues as: taxes, and why they are so high; lack of jobs and how to create jobs; and corruption.
On fracking, he said, “If we can do it safely, we can create tens of thousands of jobs.” He said casinos in New York State “won’t answer the job problem,” but admitted they would help tourism. He said the Common Core curriculum “isn’t going to work here in New York State.”
Due to an editing error, this article originally credited a quote about supporting the commuter tax to Grant Lally. The quote was actually said by Assemblyman Ed Braunstein. We regret the error.