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Dems hold final debate for 21st District in Bethlehem

A packed Bethlehem Town Hall played host to the final Democratic candidate debate for the 21st Congressional District before the Sept. 9 Primary Election.

Four out of five of the Democrats vying for the seat of retiring Congressman Michael McNulty, D-Green Island, attended the debate, which was sponsored by Democracy for the Hudson Mohawk Region (DFHMR) and supported by Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace (BNP).

Albany City Democrat Joseph Sullivan was expected, but did not make an appearance at the event and Robert B. Ward, deputy director of the Rockefeller Institute was the evening's moderator.

The debate covered a wide array of topics but focused specifically on policies such as foreign and domestic issues, energy, health care, education, campaign finance and even allowed for a section where the candidates asked one another a question.

Democratic Candidates Tracey Brooks of Coeymans, Darius Shahinfar of Albany, Phil Steck of Colonie, and Paul Tonko of Amsterdam all fielded questions for over two hours at the Town Hall debate.

The candidates were each given a two-minute introduction and closing statement and were limited to one-minute answers, something that was harder for some candidates more than others as Tonko was cut off and asked to stop on multiple occasions throughout the night.

The rules of the debate allowed a candidate to give a 30-second rebuttal if they were specifically named during another candidate's answer, something which Steck took advantage of by taking jabs at both Tonko and Brooks. He wasn't the only one though, as Brooks also took a shot at Tonko's support of energy de-regulation during his tenure in the state's assembly.

Tonko got his 30 seconds, and a little more, to tell Brooks he respects her opinions but that she couldn't use her own set of facts, as he blamed the Republican George Pataki administration for going around the state's assembly to pass its own energy policies in the state.

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