Candidates for Congress debate in race for new 19th District

LAKE KATRINE–Democratic challenger Julian Schreibman blasted Republican Representative Chris Gibson for his stance on Medicare and attacked his voting record, while the congressman promoted his record of bipartisanship as the two squared off in a debate in Ulster County last week.

The men are seeking to represent the newly redrawn 19th District, which includes all of Columbia County and all or parts of 10 other counties. Mr. Gibson currently represents a district that includes parts of the new district including this county but not Ulster.

The debate, held Wednesday, October 10 at the M. Clifford Miller Middle School in the Kingston suburb of Lake Katrine, featured questions submitted by audience members on index cards. The two candidates for the congressional seat found themselves in agreement on several issues, but the mood became touchy when the topic turned to healthcare.

“The congressman has voted to end the guaranteed coverage of Medicare, and replace it with vouchers,” said Mr. Schreibman, referring to Mr. Gibson’s vote for budget adopted by the House of Representatives last year and drafted under the direction of Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan, now the GOP candidate for vice president. “He has voted to privatize Medicare, costing seniors thousands more, which turn over to the insurance companies, which are funding his election campaigns,” said Mr. Schreibman.

Mr. Schreibman, an Ulster County native who has been a prosecutor in the county as well as a federal prosecutor and an attorney with the CIA, claimed Congressman Gibson, a former colonel and career officer and combat veteran in the Army, voted to end “one of the most successful programs ever.” He said that his opponent voted to take money out of Medicare to give to millionaires and billionaires.

“A non-partisan fact-checking organization called that the lie of the year,” Congressman Gibson responded. “It’s simply not true.”

The congressman said that he voted for two concepts to “get the conversation started,” because trustees had said if nothing is done, then Medicare would be lost in a decade without adequate funding. He then criticized the president’s new health care law, saying that money cannot be taken out of Medicare to start a new program. “We have to work together to save the program,” he said.

“The congressman talks about having a conversation starter,” said Mr. Schreibman. “When you vote to end Medicare, you’re not starting a conversation. You’re ending a conversation.”

When the subject turned to clean energy, Mr. Schreibman again attacked the Congressman’s voting record and described what he called the Congressman’s “pet project” to build a nuclear power plant in upstate New York, and that Congressman Gibson also voted to cut the Department of Energy’s safety program.

Mr. Gibson replied, saying that his record is actually strong when it comes to clean energy. “I voted nine times in the House to increase money for efficiencies and clean energy,” he said. “And I voted six times to protect amendments that were trying to take money away from that account. We lead the nation when it comes to clean and renewable and I’m proud to say that.”

He acknowledged that he did look into the possibility of a nuclear power plant in his district, but said he decided over a year ago not to pursue that idea.

The issues the two candidates found themselves in agreement on throughout the night include their stances on war, hydraulic fracturing, the Patriot Act, and the importance of the United States’ relationship with Israel.

Throughout the evening Congressman Gibson, who grew up in Kinderhook, emphasized his bipartisan approach in office. “I’m focused on serving everyone from Occupy Wall Street to Tea Party and everyone in between,” he said. “This is part of my frustration in Washington, because it’s supposed to be like ‘Democrats on one side, Republicans on the other and you have to choose.’ I don’t believe that. You can do both. This is a great country that can do both.”

Mr. Schreibman urged people at the debate to look at the Congressman’s voting record, again pointing out that the Congressman voted for the Ryan budget last year, a budget he said takes $700 billion out of Medicare and cuts Pell grants for college students.

The congressman defended his record by saying he voted for that budget last year because he thought it promoted growth and was fiscally responsible. He pointed out that he voted against that budget this year, and voted for a bipartisan budget he said believes has better tax reform and “spent money in better areas.” He also said his voting record is the third most independent of Republicans in Congress.

Mr. Schreibman said that he plans to focus on middle class families, farmers and small businesses if elected to Congress.

The redrawn 19th Congressional District includes all of Columbia, Greene, Schoharie, Otsego, Delaware, Sullivan, and Ulster counties, and parts of Rensselaer, Dutchess, Montgomery, and Broome counties. The general election will be November 6.

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