Faso, Teachout Debate before Chamber

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September 30, 2016
The two candidates vying to replace U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson in Congress engaged in a polite debate before the Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 29.
Republican John Faso of Kinderhook and Democrat Zephyr Teachout of Clinton even found common ground on some issues during the debate, which lacked the acrimony of some of their previous meetings.
Faso, a former minority leader of the state Assembly, made an indirect reference to Teachout’s recent move to Dutchess County in his introduction.
“We’ve lived and worked in this district for 33 years,” Faso said after introducing his wife. “We’ve raised our children here. We’ve built our careers here. We’ve lived our version of the American Dream here.”
Teachout, an associate law professor at Fordham, connected herself to the area by saying her “gold standard” as a congressman was former U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey.
She also noted that she has sat at many local kitchen tables discussing politics and has the support of Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, Kingston Mayor Steve Noble and Ulster County Comptroller Elliot Auerbach.
Faso, 64, served in the state Assembly from 1987 to 2002. He was minority leader from 1998 to 2002, when he surrendered that post to make an unsuccessful run for state comptroller. He also ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2006.
He has worked as an attorney since leaving politics and watched upstate New York struggle.
“I’m running for Congress because our nation is in crisis,” Faso said. “We’re headed in the wrong direction and we’re particularly facing a financial crisis that looms large over the next decade, which will threaten our standing of living and the prospects of a happy future for our children and grandchildren.”
Faso highlighted the nation’s $20 national debt. He fears what might happen when the Federal Reserve raises interest rates and believes the national economy must improve from its recent GDP slump.
“Job one for me is getting the economy moving,” Faso said. “We need much stronger economic growth.”
Teachout, 45, stepped down late last year as CEO and chairwoman of the campaign finance reform-oriented Mayday PAC.
She unsuccessfully challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2014, though she did carry Ulster County and several other upstate counties.
“I am running for Congress because I believe in this area,” she said. “I believe in this region and I believe in this country.
“You guys are doing incredible work here. It’s exciting to me to see Ulster County on the rise and Kingston on the rise.”
Teachout agreed with Faso about the need for a more robust economy and said “big money and politics are stopping the kind of growth that we really need.”
“When I go to Congress, I’m going to go to fight to bring jobs home, to make things in America again, to support local farming,” Teachout said.
During a discussion of how to help small businesses, Teachout said access to capital is a problem she hears around the district.
“We bailed out the big banks and they’re not lending to our independent businesses,” she said.
Faso stressed a need for tax and regulatory reform and spoke out against a $15 minimum wage, while also mentioning that he has been endorsed by a host of business groups.
As far as working across the aisle, both candidates promised to be bipartisan.
Teachout complained that members of Congress spend too much time fundraising and not solving problems.
“I have a long history of working with people no matter where they come from to solve real problems,” Teachout said.
Faso decried the partisan divide he sees in politics today and summed it up by saying liberals watch MSNBC and conservatives Fox News.
“They don’t seem to understand we’re all Americans,” he said. “To me, compromise is not a dirty word.”
The candidates agreed on several subjects, including the need for more cancer research funding, reforming the Medicaid/Medicare reimbursement system and term limits.
Teachout committed to serving no more than 10 years; Faso did not make a commitment, but said, “Big Government engenders most of the corruption we see.”
The seat being sought by Faso and Teachout is only open because of the retirement of Gibson, a Kinderhook Republican who imposed term limits on himself and is not seeking a fourth term.
Teachout said changes should “absolutely” be made to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Faso said all trade agreements should be evaluated from time to time, but warned that many New York businesses profit from NAFTA.
New York’s 19th Congressional District, which Gibson has represented for the last three terms, includes all of Ulster, Greene, Columbia Delaware, Otsego, Schoharie and Sullivan counties and parts of Broome, Dutchess, Montgomery and Rensselaer counties.
The questions for the debate, which was held at the Best Western Plus in Kingston, were provided by local business leaders and asked by Chamber President Ward Todd. The League of Women Voters moderated.
Ward Todd, President/CEO
(845) 338-5100