Schenectady County

Congressional candidates spar in final debate before election

In the final debate before Tuesday’s special election, Democrat Scott Murphy pounded his opponent an

In the final debate before Tuesday’s special election, Democrat Scott Murphy pounded his opponent and Republican James Tedisco relished the argument, but at the same time took the positive stance he pledged to take a few weeks ago.

“I want to make this president the greatest president in the history of the U.S.,” Tedisco declared, referring to President Barack Obama, just moments after he vowed not to let the federal government take too much taxpayer money.

But mostly, the two men running for the open congressional seat stuck to the scripts they have created for themselves in the last several weeks of the frenzied campaign, zeroing in on the economic stimulus plan as the main issue that divides them.

Tedisco continued to hound Murphy on whether the Democrat agreed with the $165 million in taxpayer-funded bonuses given to AIG executives, and Murphy blasted Tedisco for calling more than a third of the economic recovery package “pork” spending.

“You can’t have it both ways,” Murphy said at one point after Tedisco talked about ensuring that upstate New York gets its fair share of funds from the stimulus. “If it’s all pork, you shouldn’t be fighting for it.”

Tedisco, the Assembly minority leader, opposes the $780 billion economic recovery act as signed into law, and Murphy, a Glens Falls venture capitalist, thinks the package will help the country move out of the current recession.

Thursday’s debate at the Holiday Inn Express in Latham was more confrontational than the candidates’ cordial first debate in Saratoga Springs earlier this month.

Both men took advantage of an opportunity to rebut each other by holding up a “red card” as part of the debate format developed by sponsors WROW, the League of Women Voters and Capital News 9.

Throughout the hourlong debate and subsequent half-hour town hall meeting, both candidates stressed the need for creating jobs upstate, investing in alternative energy, improving access to health care, protecting Second Amendment rights and sending more troops to Afghanistan.

Murphy also said he supports pulling troops out of Iraq: “I agree with President Obama that we need to get out of Iraq. The Iraqis need to take care of their own security.”

As they have during the campaign, Murphy touted his job creation record as a venture capitalist, and Tedisco emphasized the way he has stood up to Democrats in Albany.

“When it was time to be counted on, when it was time to stand up, I’ve done so,” Tedisco said.

In the past two months, Murphy and Tedisco have campaigned throughout the sprawling 20th Congressional District, which covers all or part of 10 counties.

They were tapped by their respective political parties to run in the special election to fill the open seat created when Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed to the U.S. Senate in January to finish the rest of Hillary Clinton’s term.

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