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Faso-Teachout Congressional Debate Erupts in Fireworks

Written By Editor on 9/15/16 | 9/15/16

The scheduled debate between Republican John Faso and Democrat Zephyr Teachout was an interesting affair. Teachout spoke first, having won the coin toss.

The first question asked Teachout if her fundraising from billionaire special interest groups were in conflict with her pledge to get money out of politics. Teachout described the current campaign finance atmosphere as a, "Crisis of corruption" where "big corporations spend unlimited money in campaigns." She highlighted two contributions of $500,000 to John Faso's campaign from New York City. She said that one of the contributors, supported Common Core. She said she would "clean up Congress."

Faso stated that Teachout is raising "big money from all sorts of people connected to Super PACs." He also said that his opponent recently arrived in the district from Brooklyn in order to run for Congress. Faso said his roots in the Hudson Valley were deep, including his wife's role as a school nurse. He stated that Congress was a House of Representatives, not a House of Adventurers. Faso also said that he supported campaign finance reform. He criticized heavy spending to influence politics from George Soros, who is also donating to Teachout.

The next question discussed climate change. Faso said that "unfortunately this issues has been politicized." He said that climate change is real and must be mitigated. He cited a 20-25% reduction in greenhouse gases accomplished in New York. Faso stated that the country should begin an "all of the above" approach to energy. He claimed that his proposed policy would help small businesses.

Photo credit: WAMC
Teachout went next. She said that there is a "real difference" between her and her opponent. She cited her support of the fracking ban in New York state. She said that Faso is a supporter of the practice and has operated as a lobbyist for pipeline companies. She said she would "protect our water from the big polluters" in Congress.

Both candidates were questioned about term limits and if they would limit their service. Teachout stated that she supported limits and would serve five terms. She said she would focus on small businesses, stating "the real job creators have suffered." Teachout said she is against the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership, in common with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Like Trump, she also recommended renegotiating NAFTA. Teachout highlighted her experience in co-founding an organization to break up the big banks.

Faso also stated that he supports term limits. He also pledged to serve only five terms. He said he supports term limits for the state. He said that he has never been a lobbyist, although he did work as a consultant for Williams oil company in support of the Constitution pipeline. He opposes the Tennessee pipeline. He highlighted his endorsement from a national small business association. He supports a small business tax credit for capital expenses.

The next question was about the presidential level. Faso was asked why he did not endorse Donald Trump. He replied that he will keep his pledge to support the GOP's nominee but disagrees with Trump on multiple policies. He said he's running in the "model of Chris Gibson...to work across party lines." He followed, "A million people have left New York State in the last ten years." He supports a streamlining of New York law to have the state pick up Medicaid costs instead of the counties. He believes that this would reduce the local property tax burden. He said he had the experience to do so.

Zephyr Teachout replied by saying, "First of all I support Hillary Clinton for President." She said that she's always willing to be independent to succeed. She cited her 2014 independent campaign against Andrew Cuomo for governor. She said that she will "listen only to the people...and not big corporations." She also said that she felt local property taxes were too high. She said that when Faso was an Assemblyman, he supported tax increases 135 times. She said that he also missed 1,700 votes. "He's already had a chance to show what he'll do when he's paid to represent... he cashed out and became a lobbyist."

Teachout was asked about her recent move to the Capital Region. She said that she grew up locally in Windsor County, Vermont. She said that many of the issues are similar between the two. Teachout said that she feared that there would be a representative that would not represent the district. She said that she wanted to help parents opt-out of Common Core.

Faso denied having missed 1,700 votes. He said that he had a 97% legislative record. He said he missed some votes because he was at his wife's bedside while she was being treated for cancer. He said that Teachout's accusation was "below the belt." He cited that Teachout missed her own vote for her local school board election.

Faso bristled at Teachout describing him as a lobbyist, saying that one group that he lobbied for was the non-profit Autism Speaks, where he urged lawmakers to assist families with autistic children. "I have a serious plan to build the small business economy." He said that he would work against overregulation. He criticized Teachout's support of Black Lives Matter, saying that she called them "thoughtful."

Faso also attacked Teachout's alleged support of the Boycott Divest Israel movement. Teachout later said she was against the movement and was a supporter of Israel. She said that she was worried that North Korea could get a nuclear weapon. North Korea has had nuclear weapons for over a decade. She said that the U.S. had done enough to stop Iran from getting nuclear technology, and that the country should step up efforts to keep North Korea from getting nuclear weapons, an assertion which she reiterated. North Korea detonated a test nuclear weapon last week.

Teachout rebutted by citing Faso's opposition to same sex marriage in 2006. She said she supports "civil rights for all Americans." She also stated that she supported abortion rights and Planned Parenthood. She said she supports Zika funding and stated that Faso wouldn't.

Moderators were Dr. Alan Chartock of WAMC, WAMC's Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne, State Editor for Albany Times Union Casey Seiler, and Newschannel 13's Benita Zahn.

Hear the whole thing on WAMC.
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