The three candidates competing to replace former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos squared off Thursday in a debate televised on News 12 Long Island, sparring over ethics reform, taxes and the Common Core curriculum.
Democrat Todd Kaminsky, a first-term assemblyman from Long Beach, Republican Christopher McGrath, an attorney from Hewlett and Green Party candidate Laurence Hirsh, an accountant from Valley Stream, offered competing visions of what they would do if elected to the vacant 9th Senate district seat.
The special election is Tuesday.
Kaminsky, a former federal prosecutor, called for a ban on all outside income for state lawmakers and said he would press for legislation to provide increased tools for local district attorneys to tackle corruption.
“You want a person that’s going to take a machete to corruption and deliver results for you,” Kaminsky said.
McGrath stressed the need for term limits for all state elected officials. He also called for stripping politicians convicted of corruption of their pensions — a policy supported by Kaminsky and Hirsh.
But McGrath, who has said he would keep practicing law if elected, said Kaminsky’s bill to ban outside income would not work because it would allow the lawmakers’ spouses to hold positions in which they could influence public officials.
“Our founders envisioned teachers, farmers, lawyers and doctors serving as our legislators and not full-time political hacks that come out of political parties,” McGrath said.
Hirsh criticized a State Board of Elections policy allowing Democrats and Republicans to run on minor party lines and urged public campaign financing of elections. “New Yorkers deserve a drastic change from the business as usual politics of the state,” Hirsh said.
The result of the special election — which occurs the day of News York’s presidential primary — could help determine control of the Senate. Republicans hold a slim majority aided by a group of breakaway Democrats. Skelos vacated the Senate seat in December when he was convicted on federal corruption charges. He and his son, Adam, who also was convicted in the case, are appealing.
McGrath told moderator Rich Barrabi, a News 12 Long Island reporter, that a Kaminsky victory would allow New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and city Democrats to siphon school and tax aid away from Long Islanders. “Taxes go up; people will leave again. I will never ever let that happen,” McGrath said.
Kaminsky said he would be “a relentless fighter for Long Island” and called McGrath’s argument a “red herring. “Bill de Blasio wouldn’t know me if I ran him over with a horse carriage,” Kaminsky said.
The candidates also sparred over the Common Core curriculum.
McGrath said he would sponsor legislation repealing all Common Core standards.
Kaminsky said children are being “over-tested to the max,” creating low morale among students and teachers.
Hirsh said he opposes Common Core and, “the privatization of education in any form.”