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NY-22: Candidates Debate Health Care, Policing

Updated: 10/23/20 - 4:23 P.M.


BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — With just 12 days until the election, candidates for New York’s 22nd Congressional District made their case to voters during a broadcast debate Thursday night. Democratic incumbent Anthony Brindisi, former Republican representative Claudia Tenney and Libertarian candidate Keith Price were present.

The debate, hosted by WSKG Public Media and broadcast by neighboring public radio and television stations, covered an array of issues, including policing, climate change, another federal coronavirus relief package and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

According to Brindisi, over 30,000 people in his district benefited from the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case challenging the ACA this November.

“If we can just stop all the attacks on the Affordable Care Act, shore it up, then we can look at what is truly driving up the costs of healthcare in this country, and the number one culprit right now is the high cost of prescription drugs.”

Brindisi said he spoke with a constituent in Binghamton who pays over $2,000 every month for insulin. Brindisi mentioned policies that would cap out of pocket expenses for seniors and allow for Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices.

Price, however, said it may not be the role of the federal government to provide affordable health care. He said opening competition between providers across North America could lower the cost of treatment.

In 2017 when Republicans controlled the Congress and the White House, Tenney voted to repeal the ACA. She argues the ACA increases health care premiums and can make doctor visits unaffordable.

Tenney criticized Brindisi’s political record for much of the night. She said Brindisi intends to defund police.

“We have to support our police and policing, and I would say that we need to actually increase funding, not defund the police as my opponent has done,” Tenney said.

The Republican received endorsements from the New York Police Department’s Sergeants Benevolent Association, the New York State Troopers PBA and the New York State Police Investigators.

Brindisi affirmed he does not support defunding the police, calling Tenney’s repeated claims “lies.” In July, the Congressman introduced the “Defund Cities that Defund the Police Act.” It's a bipartisan bill that would deny certain economic development assistance grants to jurisdictions that move to defund police.

“We want to make sure that we have officers engaged in the community, and that’s how we can solve some of these issues,” Brindisi said.

Brindisi added he hopes to ensure the federal government holds police departments accountable, and creates a fairer criminal justice system.

Price said funds police use to purchase “pseudo-military goods” should be reinvested into mental health treatment and advanced training programs, but that decision should be made by local communities.

While both Tenney and Brindisi are Utica natives, Price grew up in Vestal and lives in Apalachin. Price said he is against adding a tax on carbon emissions, but communities should look into clean energy.

The Libertarian said he is unsure about the reality of climate change, but adds holding businesses accountable for pollution will incentivize investments into clean energy.

“The best way that I believe that we can clean up our economy is by saying to a company, ‘If you pollute, you will lose business,’” Price said.

Brindisi said people should take the climate crisis very seriously, adding he wants the United States to rejoin the Paris Agreement. President Donald Trump formally withdrew the U.S. from the global framework on climate change mitigation last year, although withdrawal takes one year to go into effect.

Brindisi said he believes the nation should invest in green technology and modernize New York's energy grid, reducing carbon emissions.

Tenney pushed back against a carbon tax over concerns it could hurt farmers and businesses. She also attacked the Green New Deal.* The Republican said increasing natural gas drilling, or fracking, in the Southern Tier could transform the regional economy.

Scientists say living in close proximity to fracking increases the likelihood of asthma, premature birth, headaches, and maternal stress levels.

A scientist at Ithaca College called fracking a "wrecking ball" for the climate. It releases methane, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. Methane is 86 times more powerful over a 20-year time frame than carbon dioxide.

Other topics debated Thursday include housing, U.S. Supreme Court-packing and access to broadband internet.

The candidates were socially distanced and surveyed on any possible symptoms. They wore face masks off camera and had undergone recent COVID testing.  However, no test was required by WSKG nor the League of Women Voters immediately before the debate.

Early voting in New York begins Saturday, Oct. 24 and ends on Sunday, Nov. 1. Absentee ballots may be requested until Oct. 27 and must be postmarked by Nov. 3 or returned in-person to count.  Election Day is November 3.

*This story has been updated to offer more context on Claudia Tenney's position on a carbon tax.