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WURTSBORO, NY — Five of six candidates hoping to pick up the Democratic nomination to run against Republican John Faso in November gathered at the Mamakating Town Hall on February 24 for a forum. The five men voiced similar views on a number of topics. First up was the question of gun control.
Jeffrey Beals, a local teacher who was formerly a diplomat in the West Bank and Gaza Strip said, “I teach in my community, and I can tell you from my own personal experience that we are traumatizing and entire generation of students—my students—whom we are herding into small rooms for active shooter drills….” He advocated universal background checks, and also a ban on AR-15s—the type of weapon that was used in the school shooting in Parkland, FL on February 14.
David Clegg, a human rights lawyer said that gun violence in this country is “an epidemic spread by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and by a Congress that is beholden to the gun lobby. An AR-15 is a killing machine, and we must do something about it.”
Antonio Delgado, an attorney, said of the national gun debate, “There’s no better example in my mind about how broken our system is, when you have consensus across the board on universal background checks, consensus that the CDC should study gun violence… that violent offenders should not be able to purchase a gun, consensus across the board, and yet the NRA, the gun lobby, is holding up our progress.”
Brian Flynn, a businessman and Democratic activist, said, “I live in Greene County where guns are part of the culture, and I understand that, but you can have gun safety and protect the Second Amendment at the same time… We need to keep weapons of war out of the hands of civilians, full stop.”
Gareth Rhodes, a former aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said, “We all agree we need smart gun safety laws, but here in Sullivan County, it’s going to be hard to get these things done. Sullivan County has 75,000 people, 25,000 pistol permits…. that’s why I think it’s important to nominate a Democrat who is able to go to the sportsmen’s association, who is able to talk to gun owners from personal experience.”
On the question of healthcare, all of the candidates expressed support for the idea of Medicare for all.
Clegg said, “I believe in Medicare for all… there’s not enough access to good healthcare in Sullivan County and across our rural communities; Medicare for all will change that.”
Delgado said, “The issue is important, so much so that I recently took out my first TV ad against John Faso.” He criticized Faso for publicly promising not to take away a constituent’s healthcare, then voting to end the Affordable Care Act. Delgado said he supports giving people the opportunity to opt in to Medicare.
Flynn said, “I’ve advocated for Medicare for all since 2004, because healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Healthcare is the largest employer here in Sullivan County and in every county in this district. The Affordable Care Act created a half a million jobs around the country, so when we talk about Medicare for all, that’s going to serve as an engine for economic growth, especially in areas like this.”
Rhodes said, “I have two friends who just started a business in Kingston, and they pay the penalty every year, because right now it would be $200 a month just to be able to get a policy with a $6,000 deductible. That’s why I believe in Medicare for all, or single payer, because I don’t think there’s another way other than getting the profits out of the system.
Beals said, “We have a healthcare crisis right here in Sullivan County, and we have a healthcare crisis across this country. People are dying, and the solution to this crisis is Medicare for all, and it’s House Resolution 676. John Faso has betrayed us on this most profoundly… He has voted 70,000 people [in the district] off their healthcare.”
Candidate Pat Ryan was not able to attend the forum.