2011-08-26 / Top Stories

Candidates Face Off At West End Forum

By Daniel Solomon

The candidates fighting for the vacated seats in the New York State Assembly and U.S. Congress faced off on Tuesday night in a tensely debated forum at West End Temple which drew more than 150 residents.

The forum was sponsored by the Neponsit Homeowners’ Association and moderated by its President, Peter Sammon. First, the Assembly hopefuls, Republican Jane Deacy and Democrat Phil Goldfeder were up. Each gave an opening statement. Deacy touted herself as a “citizen candidate” who would cut government bloat and regulation in Albany. Meanwhile, Goldfeder presented himself as someone who would build on former Assemblywoman Pheffer’s 22-year legacy.

Afterward, they fielded questions on a variety of topics ranging from the impending closure of Peninsula Hospital to the unfairness of the Cross Bay Bridge toll, and they seemed to agree to the same course of action much of the time. Many in the audience felt they offered little in the way of new ideas and they each had some slip-ups: Deacy flubbed a question on charter schools and Goldfeder’s delivery seemed forced and stale at times.

There weren’t any major gaffes on either side, though, and after an hour, the Congressional hopefuls took the stage.

Well, except one: Democrat David Weprin strolled into the forum 30 minutes late, after Socialist Chris Hoeppner and Republican Bob Turner had made their opening statements and had begun to field questions from attendees. The debate between the three was nastier and the queries from the audience more acerbic than normal. At separate points, a Tea Party heckler angrily confronted David Weprin over ‘Obamacare,’ otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act, and a Socialist interjected with a long rant rather than a question.

The debate, however, was largely civil. People were concerned about things like the expansion of Mitchell Lama housing, the federal budget, jobs and the economy. The Democrat stuck to traditional center-left talking points, the Republican used boiler-plate conservative rhetoric, but the Socialist, he surprised, advocating a strong progressive-populist message, interspersed with praise for Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution.

After the event, the candidates lingered to schmooze with voters. A few, of course, were happy to talk to the press as well. Hoeppner said he “enjoyed the back-and-forth” and that it was “important to have an open discussion. Weprin said that he wanted to see “more of these community forums and opportunities to be with the candidates.”

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