BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — Candidates for New York’s 19th Congressional district went head to head in a televised debate Thursday night.
Democratic incumbent Antonio Delgado faced Republican challenger Kyle Van De Water on issues like health care, tax reform and a mask-wearing mandate.
Van De Water pushed back on New York’s mask mandate, stating it should be left to county, or even city governments, to implement COVID precautions.
“Local communities, whether it’s at the state level or county level, or even at a local level, should be determining whether or not their schools open, or whether or not people need to be forced to be walking outside wearing a face mask,” Van De Water said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention masks can reduce the spread of the virus when used universally within communities.
Delgado advocated for a uniform approach to public safety during the pandemic. Otherwise, he says communities risk a backward slide.
“I think it’s okay to be fearless, but we can’t be careless,” Delgado said.
Delgado said there have been 13,000 COVID-19 cases in his Congressional District and nearly 500 deaths. The district includes Otsego, Delaware and Ulster counties and part of Broome County.
Dan Clark of New York Now moderated the debate. Ed McKinley from the Times Union newspaper and WAMC Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne served as debate panelists. For health and safety reasons, participants were spaced far apart and no audience was present.
When asked about the ongoing confirmation hearings of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, incumbent Delgado said neither rushing her nomination nor packing the Supreme Court is right.
“I think it’s important that we all here collectively step back and think about how we can reintroduce our democratic norms, norms like restraint,” Delgado said.
Van De Water praised Coney Barrett earlier in the night, then accused the Democratic party of looking to pack the court and take away the voices of constituents.
“The left, if you give them power, if you vote for my opponent, if you vote for Vice President Biden they will pack that court,” Van De Water said.
During a televised town hall on ABC Thursday, former Vice President Joe Biden would not say whether he would increase the number of justices serving on the high court. He promised a decision before Election Day.
Van De Water repeatedly called Delgado a member of the “far-left”. In June, the Congressman was recognized for bipartisanship by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, alongside Upstate Congressmen Anthony Brindisi (NY-22) and John Katko (NY-24).
When asked whether they would support and accept a COVID-19 vaccine, both candidates expressed their support. Delgado emphasized a need for research and vaccine trials comparable to the testing of other vaccines — most take several years to win final FDA approval. Van De Water stressed making vaccines free and available for all Americans, but optional.
When asked whether he supports Medicare for All, Delgado said he supports a public, non-profit option for health care that would compete with private insurers.
“This would allow folks the option, the choice, to choose the non-profit, public space via Medicare, still receive the baseline ACA benefits, and do so in a way where they’re not being priced out of the system,” Delgado said.
Under this plan, the Congressman said small business owners could provide their employees with benefits while also saving costs. He said he would introduce a bill that allowed people who are self-employed, including farmers, to include health care premiums as a business expense.
Van De Water criticized Delgado’s plan, calling it “full government control.” The two also disagreed on the viability of gun control, means for addressing climate change and expanding broadband access under a Green New Deal.
Green Party candidate Steve Greenfield and Libertarian candidate Victoria Alexander are also on the ballot but were not present.
WSKG will broadcast the NY-19 Debate. Watch WSKG TV on Sunday, October 18 at 6:00 p.m., or listen Saturday, October 17 at 6:00 p.m. to WSKG Radio.