With Long Island's only open State Senate seat at stake, Democratic Suffolk Legis. Ricardo Montano and Republican Assemb. Phil Boyle sparred on gender equality, the minimum wage and other issues during a Brentwood debate Wednesday night.
When Boyle expressed reservations over the language in a proposed state law banning discrimination based on "gender identity," Montano countered: "With a Republican-controlled Senate you will not get this bill, no matter what you do. This bill will not pass."
Asked whether he supports raising the minimum wage, Boyle said he voted against a measure to do so. But he added he's open to the idea in the future, saying, "I certainly think there needs to be an increase."
Montano said his stance "is not as complicated" as his opponent's.
"I support the bill . . . There is a huge gap between rich and poor, and we're losing the middle class," he said.
The candidates are battling over the Fourth District seat to be vacated by retiring state Sen. Owen Johnson (R-West Babylon). A win by Montano would provide a boost for Democrats in the chamber, where Republicans currently hold a slight majority.
Montano Wednesday called the Republican grip on the Senate "very tenuous at best."
The forum was hosted by the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, Spanish language newspaper Noticia and Long Island Wins. Questions to candidates were posed by community members representing interests ranging from immigration reform to the foreclosure crisis.
The candidates agreed that the state Foreclosure Fraud Prevention Act pending before the Senate needs to be have better enforcement, and banks should be pushed harder to modify loans for struggling homeowners before their homes fall into foreclosure.
Both also agreed that when corporations get tax subsidies for new construction, the bulk of those jobs should belong to local unions.
"I have a lot of labor support because I feel strongly that our taxpayer money should go to support union jobs," Boyle said.