Hot-button issues such as the future of Ben's Bridge, allegations of racism in the police department and economic development were all hit upon when Bethlehem Supervisor Jack Cunningham and Town Board member Sam Messina traded views at the Independence Party primary debate on Thursday, Sept. 3, at Town Hall.
The debate, which was attended by more than 100 spectators, was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and The Spotlight.
I'm hoping to get some clarity about where the [candidates] stand, especially on spending, said Tom Thorsen, a Slingerlands resident.
Bonnie McInerney said she is hopeful that the election will yield transparency in government. She said she came out to see which candidate will bring that to the town.
"I'm a supporter of open government," she said. "I don't think we have open government here in Bethlehem right now."
The debate featured questions from the audience, with three-minute opening and closing statements from the candidates.
Cunningham opened by mentioning his affection toward Bethlehem, something he would allude to in his closing statements. He said that his work toward cutting $1 million out of the budget, the Vista Technology Park are a testament to his good leadership, but more can be done.
"There's a great deal left to do, and I hope to work toward those goals in the coming months," Cunningham said.
Messina pointed to his own experience and work ethic.
"My whole life has geared me to public service," Messina said.
Messina said he has worked under five New York state governors, served on the Town Board and has many community service efforts under his belt.
"I think I can best serve the community now by being your supervisor," he said.
The first question of the evening dealt with the nature of the Independence Party.
Cunningham, a registered Democrat, has the Independence Party's endorsement. Messina is a registered Independence Party member.