VESTAL, NY (WSKG) – The candidates in New York’s 22nd District held their final debate before the election on Thursday.
The district covers parts of the Southern Tier and Central New York, including Binghamton, Cortland and Utica.
Republican Congresswoman Claudia Tenney and Democratic challenger Anthony Brindisi mostly kept arguments along party lines. They met at the WSKG Studios in Vestal.
The candidates sparred over firearms. Tenney defended legislation banning bump stocks; Brindisi called for stricter background checks.
They hit on the Republican tax bill that passed December 2017. Brindisi said it won’t help raise wages, while Tenney championed the compromise that allowed people to deduct state and local taxes on their federal return. There was a push to eliminate it, the final bill kept the deduction in up to $10,000.
One of the more contentious parts of the debate came during a question about the opioid epidemic. Brindisi says government needs to be tougher on drug companies.
Tenney called out the law firm Brindisi works for accepting county money to go after those companies.
“Anyone doing this should be taking it for free instead of taking this money out of the resources of our community and our taxpayers,” said Tenney. “Our county governments can handle it. They have tons of lawyers who can handle these cases.”
“First of all, it’s a case I’m not involved in,” Brindisi responded. “It’s a case where our law firm has been hired by several counties to sue drug manufacturers so they can get money back for these counties to provide treatment programs which are desperately needed throughout upstate New York right now.
“Shame on you Congresswoman. Stop resorting to name calling. Stop resorting to personal attacks,” Brindisi added.
On healthcare, Tenney defended her decision to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The repeal passed in the House, but failed in the Senate. Tenney argued the repeal was necessary.
“We have to replace it with a patient driven system,” she said. “His proposal is ‘Medicare for All,’ which will take healthcare away from everyone. If you’re UPS or you’re IBEW you will all lose your healthcare and you’ll get in line behind illegal immigrants.”
“Those people coming up in the caravan. They’re going to get healthcare ahead of all of us,” Tenney added.
Brindisi says he’s supports whatever option makes the healthcare work for everyone and criticized Tenney for what he called “scare tactics.”
Throughout the debate, Tenney looked to link Brindisi with high profile Democrats. He addressed that in his closing statement.
“Sometimes, I have to look around because I think that my opponent thinks she’s running against Sheldon Silver or Nancy Pelosi or Governor Cuomo,” he said.
“I am,” Tenney replied.
Following the debate, both candidates issued press releases claiming each had won. The latest Siena poll has these two in a dead heat heading into Election Day. They’re separated by just one point.
You can also hear one-on-one conversations with Brindisi and Tenney.