JAMESTOWN – A debate at the Reg Lenna Civic Center Thursday night between incumbent NY State Assemblyman Andy Goodell (R, 150th District) and Democrat Christina Cardinale saw the latter challenge Goodell’s record at every turn.
The differences between the two became apparent from the start as both candidates made their two-minute opening remarks. Goodell says that he is seeking an addition term in office because of his experience and background.
“I’m running for re-election because I want to be able to use my background, my experience, my education to represent the residents of Chautauqua County as we face some of the most difficult issues in the State of New York,” Goodell said. “So the decisions that are made in Albany over the next two years are going to have major impacts on each of you. We need to have someone in Albany representing us who is analyzing the laws, who has that budget experience that’s so critical at this time, who is looking at what the short-term, and the long-term ramifications are and putting together the strategy so that we can come out of this crisis as strong as we can be.
Cardinale, meanwhile, says she is running in an effort to become a unique official rather than an established politician.
“When I hear, and I hear it a lot, that I don’t have the qualifications to be running for this position, good. I take that as a compliment,” Cardinale explained. “I don’t want to qualify as a standard politician. I would be a working person who represents working people. Working people are the ones that care about the politics of everything the most because they are the ones who are the most effective, whether it’d be positive or negative.”
The concept of a minimum wage increase was one of the pressing issues that was discussed during the debate. Cardinale slammed Goodell’s record for voting against an increase of the minimum wage in New York State, saying that Goodell voted against the increase on three separate occasions.
“I’m not quite sure how serious you are about benefiting the working people and talking about raising minimum wage and talking about your awareness of minimum wage and restaurant worker wage when there’s been three different occasions that you have not supported increasing it by only a dollar,” Cardinale said. Her comments came after Goodell said that he worked with Democrat Assemblymembers on the minimum wage issue.
“We were able to successfully get a different approach on the minimum wage, recognizing the cost of living and the competitiveness of upstate is very different than New York City,” Goodell said. “….My approach is to continue to work across the isle in a bipartisan manner with all of my upstate colleagues to make sure we maintain that fiscal parity.”
Goodell and Cardinale were asked later in the debate for their stance on the Red Flag laws in New York State, which are intended to prevent individuals who show signs of being a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing any kind of firearm.
The Republican incumbent says that, while he agrees with the concept, he opposes what he says is a lack of “due process” protections in the legislation.
“For example, the legislation they voted on and I voted against, would allow the police to seize these guns based on the complaint of an ex-spouse, an ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend…..,” Goodell said. “There’s no opportunity for a hearing right away. The hearing wouldn’t occur until days later, and the standard on which they’d use was a very, very low standard.”
Goodell says that his viewpoint came after a detailed review of the legislation, as well as consultation with experts “in the field.”
Cardinale responded by saying that she also disagrees with the Red Flag laws and the SAFE Act, provided she determines that they are, indeed, an infringement on the rights of gun owners.
“If there’s nothing of value in the SAFE Act, it should be repealed. If it prevents mass murder, if it prevents people from shooting up schools, and if there’s any part of it that prevents murder, it should remain but be amended,” Cardinale said. “If it’s useless, we should get rid of it.”
With the future of the COVID-19 pandemic uncertain, many questions remain regarding New York State’s future budget. Projections from Governor Andrew Cuomo indicate that New York State will experience a $14.5 billion deficit. The candidates also differed on how they would address the budgetary issues.
Goodell says that the budget that will be voted on in March will be “the real challenge.” He explains that the State needs to look at altering its Welfare and Medicaid programs.
“Our Medicaid program in New York costs us more than Texas and Florida combined. Over $13 billion more,” Goodell said. “So we need to bring our expenses in line, so we can close that gap and move forward.”
Cardinale, when she was also asked what she’d do to address the deficit, opened with a question to Goodell.
“So you want to make cuts to Medicaid and Medicare during a pandemic? Just checking that out,” Cardinale said.
“I am confident with the knowledge and ability that we have in New York State that we can restructure our Medicaid program to provide high-quality health care and bring our average costs in line with California, for example, which is what we need to do to save billions of dollars,” Goodell said later in his rebuttal. “I would rather do that than look at cutting education and other priority areas.”
Cardinale says that a look at resentencing of non-violent offenders would help with the budgetary issues. In addition, she says that she would, if elected, call on New York State to legalize cannabis.
“The revenue coming in to the State would be significant, and there are a lot of opportunities that that will open up for recreational, and also, medicinal purposes,” Cardinale explains.
The debate was the first of three scheduled for the candidates prior to the Nov. 3 election.
WRFA Public Affairs Director Jason Sample moderated the debate. WJTN-AM News Director Terry Frank and WNYNewsNow News Director Justin Gould were also on the panel during the debate.