About 200 residents and political activists heard the candidates for the 23rd Assembly District speak on a wide range of topics during a sometimes raucous debate held Tuesday night in Howard Beach.
Everything from local concerns like security around the soon-to-open Aqueduct racino to the state budget and drilling for natural gas upstate was addressed by Democratic candidate Phil Goldfeder, an aide to U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer who is on leave during the campaign, and Republican Jane Deacy, a former police officer and teacher.
The pair are facing off in the race to replace former Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, who was appointed the Queens county clerk. The vote is Sept. 13.
At the debate, sponsored by the Queens Chronicle and The Forum Newsgroup and held at St. Barnabas Church in Howard Beach, Deacy and Goldfeder agreed on a number of issues, like the need to increase the police force and express bus service, but differed on others, such as whether state income tax rates should be raised on those making $250,000 or more (Deacy: no; Goldfeder: yes).
The talk constituted the first half of a two-part event, the second being a debate between congressional candidates Bob Turner and Assemblyman David Weprin during which the crowd swelled to around 300 and grew increasingly raucous [see separate story].
Deacy and Goldfeder were able to lay out their basic campaign messages in closing statements that wrapped up their portion of the night.
“I am not a career politician, and I am one person who wantsa to make a difference,” said Deacy, who went first as per a coin toss. Adding that she has served as a police officer and a special education teacher, the Republican said, “I’m at the point in my life where I have the time and the energy — because 60 is the new 40 —to go to Albany and do something, rather than complain about it.”
“I’ve never been elected to anything, never run for anything,” Goldfeder said. “I’m proud to run for this seat with the support of Audrey Pheffer, who knows this community.”
Reiterating his stated focus on job creation, infrastructure repair and affordable healthcare, the Democrat finished by saying, “I’m a career public servant. I’m proud of that.”
The candidates voiced agreement not only on the need for more law enforcement and transportation options, but also on adding casino table games to the Aqueduct racino; the need for Peninsula Hospital to remain open; blocking congestion pricing; and establishing English as the official state language.
They differed on several other concerns, including:
• hydrofracking for natural gas upstate, which Goldfeder opposes and Deacy supports;
• a sixth tier promising fewer benefits for new public employees, which Deacy said “may be necessary to look at,” and Goldfeder declined to address directly, while saying he would “protect working men and women”;
• the commuter tax on income for those who live outside the city but work here, which Deacy opposes (though she briefly wavered when answering the question) and Goldfeder supports;
• and same-sex marriage, which Deacy said she would have opposed if she were a lawmaker when it came up this year and Goldfeder declined to address, saying he would not take a position on a bill he had not read.
Asked during a “lightning round” of questions to describe themselves and each other in one word each, Goldfeder said he is “bold” while Deacy is “sweet,” and she said he is “smart” while she is “honest.”
Also during the one-word-answers-only lightning round, Deacy said she hopes to get a seat on the Transportation Committee and Goldfeder chose the Budget Committee.
Throughout the event, Pheffer, like other area VIPS, had a front-row seat about a dozen feet from her successor in the Assembly, whoever it will be.
CORRECTION: The original version of this article, and the one in the printed edition of the Queens Chronicle, mixed up the candidates' opinions on the commuter tax and congestion pricing. Goldfeder supports the commuter tax while Deacy opposes it; and both oppose congestion pricing. The above text has been corrected. We regret the error.