The stakes in Thursday’s Democratic debate for New York state governor were relatively low for race-favorite Governor Kathy Hochul. She had to withstand an onslaught of attacks from her rival candidates, without making any major mistakes. She seemed to achieve these modest goals.
The stakes for her two rivals, on the other hand, were significantly higher. Early voting for the June 28 primary begins Saturday, and it was one of their last opportunities to change the course of a race that seems all but certain to hand him the nomination.
Rep. Thomas R. Suozzi, who is running to Ms. Hochul’s right as a tough-on-crime and fiscally responsible Democrat, did his best to land a punch. So does Jumaane D. Williams, the New York City public attorney, who runs to Ms. Hochul’s left.
They attacked the governor’s record on crime, helping the undocumented, the environment and affordable housing.
And they frequently brought up real pain points for the Hochul campaign.
Ms. Hochul aligned herself with the National Rifle Association when it was politically advantageous, before turning against it. She used public funds to fund a new Buffalo Bills stadium in a deal that sports economists describe as flawed, and she chose a less-than-ideal lieutenant governor in Brian A. Benjamin, who had to resign to fight federal corruption charges. .
But Ms. Hochul is a formidable fundraiser who wields titular powers. She has nearly a year in power and a budget of $220 billion under her belt to defend herself against attacks from her adversaries.
Here’s a recap of some of the most memorable moments from the debate.
A conflict over environmental policy
Ms. Hochul’s first days as governor were punctuated by the remnants of Hurricane Ida, which brought severe flooding that killed at least 13 New Yorkers, many in their basements.
On Thursday, debate moderators asked him and his Democratic challengers what they were doing to address climate change, which is expected to make future hurricanes more devastating.
The governor underscored her support for a $4.2 billion environmental bond law, which will go to voters in November and, if passed, will help fund climate-related infrastructure.
But Mr. Williams was quick to point out that on some other climate-related measures, Ms. Hochul sounded more equivocal.
During a debate last week, Ms Hochul said the state’s long-delayed congestion pricing plan for New York City “is by no means going to happen within the next year.” .
The plan would require a toll from drivers entering Manhattan’s central business district and is expected to reduce traffic and the accompanying pollution. Ms. Hochul blamed the federal government for the delays.
Following her remarks last week, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which she controls, released a statement saying it was moving full speed ahead on congestion pricing, and Ms Hochul toed that line on Thursday.
But Mr Williams also attacked her on another climate-related front. Ms. Hochul has yet to sign legislation that would institute a two-year moratorium on a particularly energy-intensive form of cryptocurrency mining.
A super PAC backed by a cryptocurrency billionaire is also backing his running mate for lieutenant governor.
Differing views on how to deal with the housing crisis
Each of the three candidates on the debate stage agreed that the housing crisis was a major problem facing New Yorkers – but the question of how to solve it opened up the first three-way spat of the night.
Ms. Hochul highlighted the steps already underway – from a recently signed bill that would convert struggling hotels into housing, to a plan to build 100,000 new affordable units, to a new funding stream for housing stock. New York’s beleaguered social – as proof that she has the problem under control.
Ms. Hochul also mentioned her housing assistance program, to which the state contributed $800 million in its latest budget, and which she described as a “short-term solution”, to help defray the costs of the housing and public services during the pandemic.
Mr. Suozzi agreed that public housing in the city needed help and that new affordable housing needed to be built. He suggested there should be a replacement for 421a, a section of the tax law that offered developers tax relief in exchange for creating affordable units. He just expired; Ms Hochul tried to replace him in the last legislative session, but lawmakers balked, calling him a giveaway to real estate.
But more broadly, Mr. Suozzi hit out at the governor for what he described as his “irresponsible” use of federal funds. “We already have the highest taxes in the United States of America. In the event of a downturn, we will be in a lot of trouble because of this governor’s irresponsible spending,” he said.
Mr. Williams, for his part, said the state needed to build many times the number of affordable units suggested by Ms. Hochul and pass eviction legislation “for a good cause,” which would make it harder for landlords to evict tenants from their homes. Neither Mr. Suozzi nor Ms. Hochul said they would support such legislation.
“The real estate industry is dumping millions of dollars to buy a policy that puts you at risk of eviction,” Mr Williams said directly to the camera.
Suozzi’s repeated interruptions
One of the most controversial moments of the evening concerned Mr. Suozzi’s attacks on Ms. Hochul’s gun control record.
After her election to Congress in 2011, where she represented an upstate district, Ms. Hochul earned an “A” grade from the National Rifle Association, and the organization endorsed her in 2012 against a Republican opponent.
Since then, she has become a strong supporter of gun control. Mr Suozzi called his development hypocrisy.
When Ms. Hochul attempted to respond to Mr. Suozzi’s argument, he interrupted her twice.
“Please stop interrupting me,” Ms. Hochul said, with obvious irritation. “People want to hear my answer.”
That wasn’t the only time Mr. Suozzi spoke over Ms. Hochul. Shortly after, Ms. Hochul was trying to answer a question about elementary school curricula dealing with sexual orientation and gender identity.
Mr. Suozzi questioned her directly.
“Excuse me, I’m giving an answer,” she said.
“I would like to hear the answer,” he said.
“I’ll respond to the moderator,” she replied.
The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ brawl is coming to New York
Across the country, parents have moved to cleanse public school curricula of the history of racism, as well as information about gender and sexuality.
More recently, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida trumpeted a law — known to critics as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill — that prohibits teachers from sharing lessons about LGBTQ history or gender identity. with children before fourth grade.
Mr Suozzi sparked controversy in April when he said he found the law reasonable. Although he later recanted, he said Thursday night that he would not teach children “about sexual orientation, genitals or sexuality” until fifth grade. “I think it’s up to the parents,” he said.
Ms. Hochul tried to capture Mr. Suozzi’s comments, which she called “discriminatory.” But when asked if she would support a mandate for a primary school curriculum, Ms Hochul hesitated, saying such a decision would have to be made in collaboration with teachers, school boards and parents. .
Mr Williams, who has in the past drawn criticism for his own stance on LGBTQ issues, said he would support such a program as long as it was taught in a way young people could understand it. He then suggested that such education could also help children seek help for sexual abuse.
Agreement on tackling crime, but not on how to do it
New York City has seen an increase in some violent crimes and on Thursday Mr. Suozzi blamed neither the pandemic, nor the economy, nor Mayor Eric Adams. He blamed Ms. Hochul.
“It’s the No. 1 problem we face in the state and the governor hasn’t treated it like the No. 1 problem that it is,” Mr. Suozzi said.
A recent Siena poll found that 70% of New Yorkers feel less safe today than before the pandemic.
Mr. Suozzi has made crime central to his campaign for governor. He regularly argues that the state needs to pass laws that keep criminals in jail longer and presents himself as a proven leader who can do just that. He says that as governor he would remove district attorneys who do not follow state law.
So when the question turned to subway crime and Ms. Hochul began to explain her joint city-state effort to combat it, Mr. Suozzi attacked.
“People are not safer,” he said. “Under this administration, they are no safer. They don’t feel safe. And the governor hasn’t made crime a priority.
Mr Williams agreed safety was of crucial importance to the city, acknowledging that as a new father he feared his daughter would take the tube.
Instead of looking to add police, however, Mr Williams said the state should invest in housing, mental health and “responsible” policing to create what he called a “holistic” approach to policing. public security.
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