Accusations, insults and jeering were prevalent throughout Tuesday evening in a Russell Sage College auditorium, where an excited crowd demonstrated how close -- and nasty -- the battle for the Republican nomination in the 43rd state Senate District has become.
The tone of the candidates, incumbent Roy McDonald and Saratoga County Clerk Kathy Marchione wasn’t much better, though, as they seized on many of the talking points being shouted sporadically from the unruly audience or reiterating the claims of negative ads being run by their campaigns.
The 43rd Senate District includes parts of Saratoga, Rensselaer, Columbia and Washington Counties. The primary election is Thursday, with battles for the Republican nomination, between McDonald and Marchione, and Conservative nomination, between Marchione and Rensselaer County Conservative Ed Gilbert.
Attacks from the candidates were delivered all night long, usually coming either a few seconds after they briefly answered a question or by spinning their original answer into an attack. McDonald criticized Marchione for potentially being a “double-dipper” by receiving a pension and salary if she wins the race, for receiving free healthcare through the county, getting multiple raises from the county and for running an underhanded campaign. Marchione fired back with accusations that McDonald is a paid lobbyist for M&T Bank, that he sold his vote on same-sex marriage last summer for campaign contributions and that his campaign has been unethical.
There were also some substantive differences that got lost in the mudslinging.
Marchione said she wouldn’t have voted for the amendment that began the process of legalizing live table casino gambling in the state, because it lacked detail. McDonald voted for that bill and has said more details are needed before second passage of the amendment, which is required before it is adopted.
The two candidates also had wildly different views on the tax package last year that extended a portion of the so-called millionaire’s tax and lowered tax rates for everyone else. McDonald highlighted the lower rates for middle-class citizens and a manufacturer’s tax credit. Marchione argued the package was just a tax on job creators and that the break for the middle class wasn’t substantial.
The way GlobalFoundries was brought to Malta, with more than a billion dollars in subsidies and tax breaks, was criticized by Marchione, who said the commitment by state and local governments was too much.
“It was a tremendous amount of money,” she said.
To create savings at the state level, Marchione called for a 2 percent state spending cap, while McDonald endorsed a Tier VII pension plan for state workers, contending that the Tier VI deal didn’t net enough through cost-cutting measures.
Regarding the burden of Medicaid on local government, Marchione said localities should be able to ease their burden by being able to cut some of the program’s offerings, while McDonald highlighted his bill to shift the cost to the state.
The potential for people to double-dip by receiving a public pension and holding another public job, was another difference. Marchione said it can be advantageous to allow people to double-dip sometimes, because it brings back experienced workers, but McDonald said it should be illegal and that it could be addressed in a legislative session this fall.
There was also some agreement between the two candidates, who both approved of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s first two years, are opposed to pay raises for state legislators, like term limits, oppose President Barack Obama, want subsidies to flow to the horse racing industry and oppose a higher minimum wage.
Despite both candidates professing a desire to keep talking about substantive issues, it kept coming back to the messages of recent campaign ads. McDonald stressed that he pays about $4,300 a year for his health insurance and complained that the campaign has moved away from real issues, with too much time being spent on social issues.
Marchione again asked what McDonald does for M&T Bank, noting that the company’s lobbying expenditures stopped around the time he was hired, and brought back the senator’s famous line from last summer when he said to a reporter that if people didn’t agree with his vote to legalize same-sex marriage, they could take the job and “shove it.”