In the first public gathering since petitions were filed with the state Board of Elections earlier this month, all seven candidates for the 21st Congressional District gathered to air their views at the Albany Jewish Community Center on Thursday, July 17.
The forum, which was advertised as a chance for candidates to share their platforms with local seniors, spanned a variety of topics, including the war in Iraq, health care, campaign finance reform and property taxes.
About 100 members of the public attended, many of them supporters or campaign volunteers for the candidates who took the stage.
During a period of general comments, the key word of the night seemed to be change, a buzzword made popular this year in Sen. Barack Obama's bid for the White House.
Democrat Tracey Brooks, an attorney and former aide to Sen. Hillary Clinton, said she was "hungry for change" in Congress.
"I'll undo the damage done by the Bush administration, making myself accountable," said Brooks, who stressed her experience working with organizations in all areas of the district. "I have a very different kind of experience that stands for real change."
Republican Jim Buhrmaster was equally critical of Congress.
"Washington is broken," said Buhrmaster, the owner of Buhrmaster Energy in Scotia. "It needs something new and different " it needs to bring a businessperson to Congress."
Democrat Phil Steck also said he was a grassroots, part-time politician outside of the permanent government structures.
"This is a change election," said Steck. "I'll take a grassroots, community-based approach."
Joseph Sullivan, Democrat, said his experience as a college teacher and researcher would allow him to take a different view of the Congress, than that of a career politician. Sullivan has previously said that he would spend less than $1,000 on his campaign.
"I'm kind of like that guy from Midas Muffler," said Sullivan. "I'm not going to spend a lot for this office."