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NY-125th Assembly Candidates Face-Off In Virtual Debate

TOMPKINS COUNTY, NY (WSKG) - Challengers in the race to represent Tompkins County and part of Cortland County in the New York State Assembly answered questions during a debate on Tuesday night.

Anna Kelles won a seven-way primary earlier this year to become the Democratic nominee. She now faces Matthew McIntyre, a Cortland County Libertarian. The winner will replace Barbara Lifton, who is retiring at the end of this legislative session.

Tuesday's 90-minute debate was held online and sponsored by local chapters of the League of Women Voters.

The public submitted questions in advance about various topics including the state tax system, education funding and climate change.

The candidates differed on how to best help people recover from the current economic crisis.

Kelles considers unemployment benefits and a “living” wage necessities.

"As far as unemployment insurance, it absolutely needs to meet the needs," she said. "Not just to keep a mediocre lifestyle, but to be able to put yourself back on your feet," she said.

Matthew McIntyre would take a different approach.

"I’m not going to push for an increase in minimum wage or an increase in benefits coming from unemployment. We’re gonna push for better training both in the trades and other industries," McIntyre said.

Kelles has been a member of the Tompkins County Legislature for the past five years. McIntyre is a manufacturing logistics supervisor, small business owner and Marine Corps veteran.

There were a couple of questions about the effects of climate change. McIntyre and Kelles agreed on the importance of renewable energy sources, but differed on how to get to a statewide grid that is carbon neutral.

McIntyre saw a role for nuclear energy. Kelles did not.

Kelles said nuclear was not the right transitional energy source to bridge the gap from fossil fuels to renewable sources.

"I do not feel that is realistic," she said. "It not only takes much longer to build but it is much more expensive even though the government subsidizes it tremendously."

Kelles said she favors building out a carbon neutral energy grid using only renewable sources like wind or solar.

Both agreed that support of the expanding hemp industry, but disagreed on the need for governmental regulation to do so.

Early voting begins October 24th. Election Day is November 3rd.