HASTINGS, NY – As the campaign trail winds down in the race for the 48th District seat on the New York State Senate, the two candidates vying for the seat have taken off their gloves.
Thursday evening, incumbent Democratic Senator Darrel Aubertine and Republican challenger Dave Renzi met for their fifth debate of the issues at Castaways restaurant in the town of Hastings. For nearly half of the hour-long debate, Aubertine and Renzi exchanged jabs at one another, rather than discussing issues.
As the debate kicked off, Aubertine and Renzi opened with statements and launched into a series of answers to moderated questions.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s about you and me,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Aubertine said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s about our issues. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s not about campaign rhetoric. ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“s about the issues.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œGood government is about creating the opportunities for people to be successful and happy in life,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Renzi said.
The two offered their positions on supporting sportsman rights, reducing taxes, supporting economic development, fostering host benefits and reduced cost power for energy initiatives in the district and supporting local tourism. Both agreed, also, that there is a substantial need to eliminate unfunded mandates from the state.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIf it is a good idea, pay for it,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Aubertine said.
Citing AubertineÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s service on the Assembly, Renzi cited AubertineÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s record of voting on legislation that resulted in tax increases.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ve been spending more than we have for years,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Renzi said.
When Renzi suggested that AubertineÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s position on energy host benefits is to send money to Albany, Aubertine fought back.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhen I said (the district should receive) host community benefitsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ I never said send it to Albany,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Aubertine said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIt should be used locally. It would never be sent to Albany.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
The talks heated again when issue of taxes was raised.
Renzi regarded taxes as the pressing issue and attributed much of the problem to waste in government. During his comments, he cited AubertineÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s advertisements during the campaign.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe need to make sure that we have fairness in the tax base,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Renzi said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t get this way over night.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Renzi added that Aubertine voted 32 times on issues that resulted in $6 billion in additional spending during his time in the Assembly.
Aubertine stressed that he supported the proposed tax cap and mandate relief. He pointed out that he believes local municipalities and school boards need to have more of a say in spending for state aid and said he supports legislation that would take income into consideration.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIt should be based on the ability to pay,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said.
Fielding questions from the audience, the candidates answers evolved from responses to attacks.
Aubertine defended his support of legislation for sportsmen rights and explained that his political affiliation has prevented him from taking a more active position. He pointed out that when he made the decision to take his name off of a bill, the matter was ultimately supported by the Senate Majority.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œSo in a way, I did pass that bill,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Aubertine said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIt is about putting people before politics.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Renzi said that Aubertine has backed himself into a political corner and ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œcanÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“t have it both ways.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œFor five and a half years on the Assembly, he embraced the Majority,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Renzi said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œNow he is saying people before politics. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ If you want to change Albany, you need to change who you send.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Renzi stressed that Aubertine cannot be a strong voice on the Senate because he is in the Minority. He said because he is new to the process, he doesnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œoweÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â anything to anyone except people of the 48th District.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIt is a matter of math,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Renzi said, noting that he would work with like-minded Senators and Assembly members to get things done.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe hard part is working with people who arenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t like minded,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Aubertine said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s where IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ve been successful. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ It is working with everyone.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
The attacks reached a peak over the issue of legislation that will carry the name of 11-year-old Erin Maxwell.
Renzi joined with State Senator John A. DeFrancisco Thursday afternoon at a press conference to make an announcement concerning ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œErinÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Law.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â The proposal was inspired by MaxwellÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s death and aims to prevent future victims of child abuse and neglect. Renzi pointed out that he reached out to DeFrancisco to start the legislation.
Aubertine said that he hasnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t seen the legislation but stressed that matters like MaxwellÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s death are not a partisan issue.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œShame on anyone who would politicize that,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Aubertine said.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThis is your districtÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ve stood silent,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Renzi answered. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe need someone who is going to go in and affect real change. I am not in office and I took the initiative. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ I say shame on you.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIf you are not in office yet, why did you do something?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Aubertine responded. He pointed out that because MaxwellÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s homicide is a pending case, no one should comment on it. Pointing out RenziÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s legal profession, Aubertine suggested that Renzi should know that.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œObviously a crack in the system resulted in the death of a young girl,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Renzi said, stressing that Aubertine should know the difference.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThis is legislation with a name on it,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Aubertine answered. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s where you made the mistake.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
John Capenos of Pennellville subsequently asked Aubertine about hiring his sister, against legislation that he supported in the Assembly, and questioned the reported $40,000 fine that was attached.
Aubertine answered that there has been no discussion at the state level about a fine.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThereÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s nothing to fine for,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said.
Renzi debated the response.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œSix years ago, we sent you to change Albany,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œAlbany has changed you.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Another resident then asked Renzi about reported improper pension credits that he allegedly received while he was working as town attorney in the town of Pamelia in Jefferson County.
Renzi explained that he voluntarily took himself out of the system when a state law changed.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI did nothing wrong,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Renzi said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI paid them money. There is no fraud issue here.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Renzi then suggested that the issue was merely a campaign tactic. Aubertine shot back that RenziÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s explanation ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œdoesnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t hold water.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œCan we stick to the issues please?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Fulton Alderman Dana Smith shouted from the audience.
Each candidate subsequently offered a closing statement.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIn the end, I truly believe it is about the 48th District,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Aubertine said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œNot about the politics of Albany. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ Energy, economic development, health careÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s about us. ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s about our concerns. ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s about what we need to do for our families.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe economy is a premier issue,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Renzi said, adding that the economy and property taxes ultimately drove him to run for the Senate seat. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe economic problems we have now didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t happen over night. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ We need to get back to the basics in government and spend within our means.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â