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Senate Candidates Face Off In Fulton

<p>Darrel Aubertine (left) and Dave Renzi debated the issues Thursday evening in the first of several town-hall style meetings.</p>FULTON, NY – In the first of eight town-hall style meetings, the two candidates for the 48th District chair on the New York State Senate faced off and took questions from constituents Thursday evening at the Tavern on the Lock Restaurant in Fulton.

Incumbent Senator Darrel Aubertine, a Democrat from Cape Vincent, and Republican challenger Dave Renzi, an attorney from Watertown, fielded both prepared and impromptu questions from the audience for the 90-minute session.

“This speaks volumes,” Aubertine said as he surveyed the crowd during his opening statement. He stressed that there is “a lot riding” on the coming election for Central and Northern New York families.

“What I am hoping for tonight is that we can start a dialogue,” Aubertine said, adding that he will take those concerns to Albany.

Renzi regarded the debate as an opportunity for democracy in action. He stressed that there are problems throughout the 48th District that can be attributed to a poor economic outlook and taxes that are out of control.

Advocating his desire to fight for the district, Renzi said constituents need a “strong voice in Albany to make sure we’re treated fairly.”

As questions began, both candidates agreed that there need to be changes to make small businesses in New York successful. Both agreed that the area should receive benefits for hosting nuclear power facilities. Both agreed that there needs to be reform in Albany.

Both candidates advocated for developing college programs to keep young adults working in their communities after graduation and helping municipalities and school districts work on appropriate consolidation agreements to save money through shared services.

Both also agreed that there needs to be a tax cap in the state, though each had their own views on how to make it successful.

Aubertine supported a three-point plan that includes a tax cap, mandate relief and a proposed “circuit breaker” that would consider the individual taxpayer’s ability to pay.

“With those three items, I think you have a comprehensive plan,” Aubertine said. “And that’s what we’re looking for.”

Renzi agreed that the state needs a tax cap and mandate relief. He stressed, however, that the area needs stronger representation to get its “fair share” of state aid. Renzi challenged that the circuit breaker proposal is the root cause for the stall of the tax cap in Albany.

“(The proposal) is going to gut the STAR rebate program as we know it,” Renzi said. “It’s the Albany two-step. … Government is spending more than they have.”

He said while the cap is a great step, if the circuit breaker moves forward, it will result in “another broken promise from Albany.”

Aubertine countered that cutting the STAR rebate checks is costing New York millions, rather than not taking the money in the first place.

“Stop taking money away,” Aubertine said. “That’s what the rebate is. … I can save you $7 million by not cutting the check.”

Neither candidate said they believe public service should become a career.

“It’s about people, not politics,” Aubertine said, pointing out that he has weighed in on decision that put him at odds with special interest groups. Citing an example, he said his support of the tax cap cost him the support from state teachers for the election.

Renzi said he believes fresh eyes and new energy is key to his candidacy.

“I do not owe anything to anybody except the people of the district and that’s how I’m going to vote,” Renzi said.

Renzi said the district needs a representative who will stand up and fight for Central and Northern New York. Taking a jab at Aubertine, Renzi noted that Aubertine has only spoken for eight minutes total on the floor in the six months that he has held the Senate seat.

“I’ve always been more of a work horse than a show horse,” Aubertine countered. “But I delivered more to my (Assembly) district than any of my predecessors.

“It wasn’t about being the most vocal or being the most red-faced,” he added. “It was about talking to people, making coalitions, reaching to people and getting things done.”

Renzi countered again, citing that only 21 of 131 of Aubertine’s Assembly bills passed.

As the debate closed, each wrapped up with a closing statement.

“You’ve certainly given me a lot of food for thought,” Aubertine said. “I will take the issues that you have raised and address those issues in Albany.” He noted that he will represent the voters and their families as he asked for support this November.

“I’ve tried to demonstrate… the passion that I bring to the table and the willingness to be an effective fighter,” Renzi said. “That’s what I’ll do.”

The debate was sponsored by the Greater Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce.