Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Magnificent Seven

On Sunday, Sam Pratt offered his analysis of the unusual situation Democrats in the 19th Congressional District find themselves: "NY-19 Dem Primary: Can anyone get a mandate?" Later on Sunday, at an event for Gareth Rhodes at Vincent Mulford Antiques, Mayor Rick Rector asked Rhodes when the candidates might start trying to distinguish themselves by criticizing the positions of others. Rhodes responded by saying, in effect, that was unlikely to happen, because whoever won in the primary on June 26 would need the support of everyone who had supported every other candidate to beat John Faso in November.

If the people who flocked to hear the candidates debate at Montgomery C. Smith last night expected to come away knowing which of the seven candidates they should vote for, it's more likely they left more confused than they were going in. All the candidates said what we want to hear about such things as protecting the environment, health care, gun control, immigration reform, income inequality--and any one of them would be a welcome alternative to John Faso. Listening to their answers to questions posed by the League of Women Voters and from the audience, it was hard to distinguish one candidate from the other or to discern if it was policy or presentation that impressed you. 

The segment of the debate Gossips found most illuminating was the "Challenge Round," or, as League of Women Voters moderator Barbara Bartoletti called it, "Secret Santa." Before the debate began, the seven candidates drew each other's names out of a hat. In the Challenge Round, each candidate could ask a question of the candidate whose name he or she had drawn. That person would have one minute to respond to the question. Then the candidate asking the question would have one minute to address the issue. The candidates asking the questions went in alphabetical order, and the questions they chose to ask their fellow candidates were interesting.

Jeff Beals asked Gareth Rhodes if he intended to vote for Andrew Cuomo or Cynthia Nixon in the gubernatorial primary. In responding, Rhodes mentioned reports that Nixon opposed the cap on property taxes (Nixon has recently denied that she opposes the tax cap) and then said he had been proud to work for the governor, first in an entry-level communications job and then as his traveling press secretary, and would vote for him. In his rebuttal, Beals spoke of the need for change, asserting, "Big money rules our politics."

Dave Clegg then asked Erin Collier about domestic violence and guns. In responding, Collier spoke of systemic gender inequality and the need to get NRA money out of politics. Clegg, in his rebuttal, declared his commitment to making sure guns are seized from anyone who commits an act of domestic violence.

Collier asked Antonio Delgado why he supported universal coverage rather than Medicare for all. Delgado essentially said he thought a plan that included a public option was more achievable. In her rebuttal, Collier spoke of the complication and added cost of having multiple options for health care coverage rather than single payer and argued that Medicare for all would be simpler to deal with and would lower costs.

Delgado asked Brian Flynn about criminal justice reform. In response, Flynn spoke of the legalization of marijuana and eliminating private prisons. In his rebuttal, Delgado spoke of the need for public defenders to be properly funded and for the makeup of police forces to reflect the communities they are policing and called for bail reform.

Flynn made the exercise a little egocentric when he asked Clegg what advice he would give him when he Flynn won the primary. In his advice, Clegg stressed the importance of campaign finance reform and asked Flynn what he would do about that. Flynn responded by saying that the candidates could refuse to take money from PACs and refuse to accept money from sources whose interests did not reflect the interests of the people of the 19th Congressional District. "When we go to Washington, we only work for you."

Rhodes asked Pat Ryan to name the top three issues facing the City of Hudson. Ryan cited only one, and one, despite the experience of last summer, that didn't seem to be all that Hudson specific: "the epidemic of gun violence." Rhodes had a different take, identifying as an important issue in Hudson the need for affordable housing at all income levels and concerns about gentrification.

In the final question of the "Challenge Round," Ryan, taking his cue from Flynn, asked Beals how he would make the case for Pat Ryan against John Faso. Beals used the question as an opportunity to talk about how they had both been in Mosul--Beals as a diplomat, Ryan as a soldier--and urged Ryan to stand up for that experience and what he witnessed in Iraq. In his response, Ryan urged the audience to "stand up for taking this country back from Donald Trump."

Dan Udell's video of the entire debate is now available on YouTube and can be viewed by clicking here.


  1. If there are similarities between the positions of the candidates there are also differences but none so great as to say any of them should be automatically disqualified by fellow Democrats.

    On the other hand, they are not at all similar as people. One of the things one has to decide is who is likely to be most effective at achieving what he/she wants and at working with others to achieve it.

    So I came away having a far better idea who I will vote for come June 26th (sorry, I'm not saying who because this is not a campaign statement). And I will vote for any one of them come November.

  2. Not to sound too shallow, but, having concluded that I would happily vote for any of these candidates, the forum for me was a kind of casting call. I watched it thinking, who would do best in debates with John Faso? And which of these candidates would John Faso least like to face. I, too, came away with a better idea.