The campaigns of Assemb. Todd Kaminsky and Christopher McGrath traded barbs Sunday over debates and responses to corruption as the race for former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ seat enters its final phase.
Although the two candidates are scheduled to face off in a televised debate Thursday, Kaminsky attacked McGrath for not debating him at candidate events.
“He’s refused to stand up in front of voters and answer basic questions about key issues in an important election,” Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) said at a news conference in Oceanside. Kaminsky challenged McGrath to debate him in a setting where voters could ask questions before the April 19 special election.
“Hiding from voters in a democracy is not acceptable,” Kaminsky said.
The McGrath campaign shot back that Kaminsky was a “hypocrite.”
“Chris McGrath is speaking to voters every day at the same time that Todd Kaminsky isn’t showing up for work in Albany,” campaign spokesman E. O’Brien Murray said.
A spokesman for Kaminsky said his attendance record was “outstanding.”
The election is being forced by Skelos’ December conviction on eight counts of bribery, extortion and conspiracy. The high-stakes fight over his seat could affect control over the Senate, where Republicans hold on to power with a coalition of Independent Democrats.
Kaminsky, a former federal prosecutor, framed the election as a referendum on corruption, and alleged Sunday that voters “don’t know whether Chris McGrath even thinks corruption is a problem.”
Murray said that’s not true.
“From day one in his campaign he has addressed this issue,” Murray said. “Chris McGrath has been in favor of term limits … and he is for taking pensions away from convicted politicians,” Murray said.
McGrath’s statements in Newsday last week about Skelos having done “good things” in the community while having made “mistakes” also drew fire.
“What Dean Skelos did was violate the trust that voters placed in him,” Kaminsky said. He said the crimes Skelos was found guilty of were not mistakes.
“A mistake is when you accidentally put on socks that don’t match,” Kaminsky said.
Kaminsky said Sunday that he also favors term limits but that his main solution to corruption would be a prohibition against legislators collecting outside income, to root out potential conflicts of interest.
Murray said McGrath, a personal-injury attorney and partner with the Garden City law firm of Sullivan, Papain, Block, McGrath & Cannavo P.C., is against having a professional legislature with career politicians.