Lined up in front of the eight chairs placed side by side at the SEIU building in downtown Albany Wednesday, May 14, were the names of the Democrats vying for the 21st District Congressional seat, which will be vacated by Democrat Michael McNulty at the end of the year. Filling those eight seats were seven men and one woman, all in business suits except one.
Instead of a tie, candidate Arthur Welser wore a T-shirt that said Arthur Welser for Congress: getting rid of the drugs and the thugs.
Wednesday's debate kicked off with some light humor by contender Darius Shahinfar, who after declaring his name to the crowd said, "It's a name for politics, don't ya think?" He later said that when his father stepped off the boat from Iran, the few words he knew included "yes, no" and "hamburger."
The joking quickly subsided as the eight candidates each tried to show voters they were the best choice to fill the vacancy in Congress in a way that would represent the American people.
During introductions, former Assemblyman and NYSERDA executive Paul Tonko, who had not announced his candidacy in the weeks leading up to the debate said, "I thought long and hard about entering this race," before advertising himself as the most qualified person for the job due to his many years as a legislator and commitment to tackling issues such as energy.
Also at the debate was John Aretakis, a trial attorney; Tracey Brooks, an attorney; Craig Burridge, executive director and CEO of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York; Lester Freeman, a member of the Albany County Legislature; Darius Shahinfar, former Capital District Representative for Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand; Phil Steck, Albany County legislator; and Welser.
The winner of the Democratic primary, to be held Sept. 9, will face either Republican Jim Buhrmaster or Steven Vasquez in the general election.