“A lot of wild charges have been thrown around,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) of last night’s debate between himself and senatorial candidates New York State Assembly member Howard Mills (R-Hamptonburgh) and Dr. Marilyn O’Grady of the Conservative Party. The debate was held in a packed Call Auditorium and sponsored by Cornell University, Time Warner Cable and the League of Women’s Voters.
The claims made by Schumer, Mills and O’Grady about their own and each other’s records were moderated by News Channel 10’s Billy Kerry, while Raj Shah ’06 and Katherine Wickham ’05 posed questions to the candidates.
In introducing himself, Schumer listed the accomplishments of his term in office, including bringing low cost airlines to New York and a $4000 tax deduction for tuition, even for families in the middle class.
O’Grady explained that she was running because she and her opponents disagreed sharply on domestic issues; where both Mills and Schumer have 100 percent approval ratings from Planned Parenthood, she believes “abortion demeans us as a society.”
Mills spent his opening remarks responding to Schumer’s introduction. He said that Schumer is “very good at taking credit,” but that he had not achieved the legislative triumphs he laid claim to.
Before the first question had been asked, Mills asserted that Schumer had little to do with the tax deduction for tuition.
In an interview with The Sun, Stu Loeser, spokesperson for Schumer later clarified that the senator proposed the bill when he ran for Senate in 1998, and that Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) has given Schumer credit for leading the campaign to get the bill passed.
The first question of the night was about protecting New York state borders.
Mills discussed Schumer’s ineptitude at protecting N.Y. borders, complaining that “we [New York] rank below Wyoming in security spending, ” when, in his opinion, “New York should be receiving the vast majority of security spending.”
Schumer respond to the accusation that he was at fault for New York State’s limited funding; he said he, “got $20 billion to New York City after 9/11.”
“In 2003, it was Schumer who was working to get security spending [allocated] to New York,” Loeser said. Schumer’s work got “$ 28.87 billion — one-third of the security money distributed nationwide” to New York.
Discussing the security of New York, O’Grady said, “I feel safer fighting the terrorists in Iraq than in the middle of Times Square.”
When asked if she felt the two were mutually exclusive, O’Grady told The Sun, “I feel that we have to accept the fact that we’re at war.”
Wickham asked about the renewal of the Patriot Act.
O’Grady said she believes it has been very successful in increasing communication between intelligence agencies.
She later said, “I don’t think there’s any doubt that it’s constitutional,” after being asked about an issue that was raised at the third-party presidential debate held last week at Cornell.
Schumer said, “most of [the Patriot Act] is good but some of it should be re-examined.”
Mills responded to Wickham’s question by attacking Schumer, saying “Senator Schumer talks a good game after 9/11 but he cut funding [that could have prevented it] beforehand.”
The federal government’s role in defining marriage was also discussed.
“I think marriage is between a man and a woman; that said, I support the bill for civil unions. … Government shouldn’t interfere…Senator Schumer thinks government can interfere,” Mills said.
Schumer did not address Mills’ assertion; he said, “When the state applies its rules, it should do it neutrally. Marriage should be left to the individual and the church, temple, mosque …” O’Grady dissented heavily on this particular issue, saying in an interview that Mills and Schumer “define marriage as I don’t even know what.”
O’Grady also differed on another social issue, that of abortion. On previous occasions she has suggested that Schumer and Mills did not truly understand abortion because they were men. She told The Sun, “I think abortion is being used birth control,” and that it is “cavalier when you chalk it up to a choice … like choosing a college or choosing a house …”
An issue raised was whether or not each candidate would appoint someone who would overturn Roe v. Wade.
Schumer would not make his decision based solely on one defining issue, though he did say that, in general, “I don’t like judges too far left or too far right.”
Mills did not express his own opinion on the matter, but did say, “Senator Schumer’s rhetoric doesn’t match his actions.”
Consistent with her previous statements, O’Grady said, “We shouldn’t give a religious litmus test to judges,” but “Roe v. Wade was a gross misinterpretation of the constitution [to begin with].”
Other topics discussed were the candidate’s stances on Bush’s tax cuts, social security, foreign policy, oil and agriculture. Over the course of the debate, Mills sent people to his website four times.
The senate debate was part of the Mock Election 2004 campaign, which is co-sponsored by The Sun.
At the end of the conclusion of the debate, Schumer thanked the audience, but expressed the feeling that many inaccurate accusations had been thrown his way.
O’Grady told the audience, “I hope you were able to see the drastest [sic] difference between me and my opponents.”
Mills thanked the audience for watching (despite the Yankee game occurring simultaneously) and said that he hoped the audience understood that he was running “a very positive campaign of issues.”
In attendance was President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77, who told the Sun that he thought “the debate was wonderful. The questions were well-framed and well-posed. Hosting the debate was a great credit to Cornell.”
Michael Zuckerman ’06, president of Mock Election was also pleased with the outcome: “I think it came out … what’s the word? Wonderfully!”
Archived article by Erica Fink
Sun Senior Writer