Angie Carpenter, the GOP candidate for Suffolk county executive, outside...

Angie Carpenter, the GOP candidate for Suffolk county executive, outside County Executives office in Hauppauge. Her opponent Democrat Steve Bellone is at left. (Oct. 3 2011)

Public transportation, government waste and adult day care were just some of the topics discussed Friday night during a teleconference debate between the two Suffolk County executive candidates that centered on senior issues.

Republican Angie Carpenter and Democrat Steve Bellone were polite to one another during the hourlong debate, dubbed a "teletown hall." It was sponsored by AARP and intended to focus on issues important to residents age 50 and older.

In addition to questions asked by the moderator, associate state director for AARP New York Bill Armbruster, the candidates fielded questions from a handful of residents.

Both candidates voiced their support for plans ranging from helping to keep more seniors in their homes to more pedestrian-friendly streets. Bellone, 42, and Carpenter, 68, both spoke out in favor of keeping the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility open and working to develop more adult day care and respite options for caregivers. Both also said they wanted to improve the public transportation network and eliminate government waste.

Candidates were not allowed to respond to each other's comments but still found ways to undercut their opponent's words. When the topic of property assessments came up, Carpenter singled out Babylon Town as being "at the top of the list" with overassessment problems, prompting Bellone to include in his comments that he is "not sure where Angie is getting her facts."

When Bellone talked of plans to put medians on Straight Path in Wyandanch in an attempt to make it more pedestrian friendly, Carpenter countered that while on the legislature's public works committee, she found such medians require more maintenance and wind up "being an eyesore and further burden on the taxpayer."

The U.S. Census shows those 65 and older make up 13.5 percent of Suffolk residents, and AARP lists 300,000 members in the county. The group reported more than 17,500 people listened to at least some of the debate.

Riverhead resident Jane Mendelson, 53, said she found the debate "extremely useful" and was glad senior issues were addressed. "I went in with very little knowledge of the two candidates," said Mendelson, who is a registered Democrat. "I got a clear picture of both candidates that will be very helpful when I go to the polls."

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