The two candidates for the 9th Congressional District – the seat vacated by Anthony Weiner – made their cases before a packed auditorium last night amidst an audience of locals, activists and a smattering of heckling.
Though largely focused on national issues, the town hall-style debate momentarily touched upon local topics, including infrastructure, community input and constituent services.
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Notably, both candidates promised to advocate for federal dollars for much needed infrastructure repairs in Southern Brooklyn.
“I will be committed to bringing … federal dollars back to the local communities, back to right here in Brooklyn,” the Democratic candidate David Weprin proclaimed, adding that the construction spending “will be able to help with unemployment, while at the same time dealing with our infrastructure needs right here in Brooklyn and Queens.”
In a possible attempt to diffuse some criticism that neither candidates are familiar with issues in the Brooklyn portion of the district, Republican candidate Bob Turner zeroed in on Sheepshead Bay in his answer.
Turner said he’d fight to get Sheepshead Bay dredged while citing the lack of federal spending in New York compared to the amount of federal taxes it pays. “I’ll do whatever I can to get [Sheepshead Bay dredged] and … get this district its fair representation,” he declared.
The only other point of agreement between the two candidates was the need to continue Weiner’s excellent constituent services. “Say what you will about Weiner,” Weprin began, as he praised Weiner’s efforts on behalf of the district. Turner similarly promised to be a hands-on representative, noting, “This is one of the most complex districts I know of.”
Besides that, spectators were greeted with a whole lot of disagreement.
Approximately 525 people packed into P.S. 195′s school auditorium to hear the two candidates spar with one another, but the event wasn’t quite a debate and the moderators even occasionally intervened to stop the candidates from directly responding to one another.
The questions, which largely focused on a generic set of national issues, allowed both candidates to advocate, with the rare exception, on behalf of their party’s positions on everything from the infamous “Ground Zero Mosque” to broader issues of economic philosophy likes taxes and regulation.
As one might expect, Turner is against illegal immigration, regulation and taxes while Weprin is very much open to moderate amounts of regulation and taxing “millionaires and billionaires,” as he is inclined to say.
However, that’s not to say the two candidates lacked personality or didn’t strike their unique brands. If Anthony Weiner showed anything, it’s that personality can play an outsized role in what kind of representative an elected official can be.
For his part, Turner stuck to his persona of being an authentic guy willing to tell you the issues straight – including the good, the bad and the ugly. He would occasionally give succinct answers like a simple “No” to complex questions or spout off catchy phrases such as, “I never met a tax I liked.”
Weprin, meanwhile, made his arguments with less ease than Turner, but still managed to throw out constant barbs on the dual issues of Medicare and Social Security, stating, unlike his opponent, he is not willing to give up a dime on the programs.
“My opponent thinks the solution is to cut, cut, cut,” he said in his closing remarks, arguing that Turner’s promise to protect these programs is at odds with his desire to significantly slash government spending.
Turner closed by arguing that this election, which is only for half a term in Congress, carries its significance because of the message that President Obama would receive if a Republican came out on top in a Democratic-leaning district.
The candidate forum finally ended with a series of light-hearted questions and one final clear difference between the candidates emerged: Weprin’s favorite movie is Gone With The Wind while Turner’s is Casablanca.