After false start, candidates debate

Democrat Phil Steck and Republican Jennifer Whalen came face to face at a brief debate, Wednesday Oct. 24.

Democrat Phil Steck and Republican Jennifer Whalen came face to face at a brief debate, Wednesday Oct. 24. Photo by Zan Strumfeld.

— The Assemblyman Vito Lopez scandal was a consistently revisited topic at the 110th Assembly District debate Wednesday night.

After a no-show by Republican Jennifer Whalen at the first 110th Assembly District debate since the primary and a number of complaints escalating between her and opponent Democrat Phil Steck, the two candidates came face to face at a brief debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters at Schenectady High School on Wednesday, Oct. 24. Audience members gave questions to the moderator and the debate was short at 30 minutes long.

In their opening remarks, Steck spoke of how his grassroots background in government has helped him in this campaign. Whalen, however, spent much of her statement referring to the Lopez scandal. Lopez was found to have sexually harassed staffers and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver arranged secret settlement payments to the women. Whalen said she is, unlike Steck, not “afraid to speak out” against these issues. However, Steck did not have a chance to speak out in return against Whalen on this issue until the very end of the debate.

The night began with both candidates agreeing that New York State should take responsibility over Medicaid.

“Medicaid is one of the biggest burdens of the counties and taxpayers. New York has the highest Medicaid program,” Whalen said. “I would like to see the state take over the entire Medicaid system and alleviate the burden on us as county taxpayers.”

Both candidates also expressed firm beliefs for increasing aid to education.

“Education and aid has always been a political football. What we need to do is take the politics out of education funding, develop a formula that is fair to all districts across the state,” Steck said.

Steck also said returning lottery money to its original purpose – funding education – is vital. He said we need to “put the money to the classroom where it belongs.”

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