Written by Melissa Argueta Friday, 10 September 2010 00:00
As the Republican primary election looms on Sept. 14, there were plenty of fireworks to watch during a recent debate held at the Hewlett-Woodmere Library. The three Republican candidates seeking to take on Democratic incumbent Carolyn McCarthy in the 4th Congressional District race exchanged sharp words on Long Island’s struggling economy, campaign reform and how to tackle job growth.
The current Republican nominee Nassau County Legislator Francis Becker and challengers Frank Scaturro and Dan Maloney sparred and waged personal attacks on each other’s records, backgrounds and the issues themselves.
Becker, a lifelong resident of Lynbrook, told the audience that as a financial planner and small business owner, he understands voters’ financial struggles. “I have been in a leadership position in the Republican Party for over 30 years and proudly served in the Nassau County Legislature for 14 years, understanding and helping the residents each and every day solve problems they have and cutting the red tape,” he told the audience.
Nassau County Legislator went on to outline the difference between his platforms and those of his two opponents. “The mystery to me is, and I say this sincerely, until this campaign started I didn’t know who Frank Scaturro was. Of course, I’ve gotten fancy mail and things of that nature … but he’s not in one of the organizations that I’ve ever participated in. I don’t know if he raised a family and lived in Nassau County. I’ve never seen him at the Nassau County Legislature while I’ve been trying to fight and maintain the quality of life and standard of living in Nassau County,” Becker stated.
Scaturro, a professor at Hofstra Law School, says he is running because the country is facing unprecedented challenges this year. “As someone who has been in the district his entire life, since my family moved to New Hyde Park when I was 1 year old, I’ve had the opportunity to study our history and confront Congress from the outside as an advocate to practice law, to serve on a Senate staff and to teach about it at our own law school at Hofstra,” Scaturro said.
Dan Maloney, a Tea Party candidate and treasurer of a small credit union, told the audience that he has been concerned about the direction of the country. “We [the Tea Party] believe that our country is on the cusp of a disaster and it’s a disaster we have to fix, and it’s not something that’s going to be fixed by your politicians or your lawyers. We’ve had plenty of experience sending people like that to Washington and this is where it’s gotten us. I am not a lawyer and I’m not a politician… I’ve never served in a public office before,” he said.
The League of Women Voters, who hosted the forum, asked the candidates to answer questions of the league’s choosing followed by residents’ questions. When asked what the biggest challenges in the office would be for the upcoming year, Scaturro touted wasteful government spending as the root of the problem. “The solution is of course, to reduce tax rates and to maintain a sound and stable dollar,” he said.
Scaturro backed up his point by referring to Becker’s record serving in the Nassau County Legislature. “Unfortunately, Mr. Becker has had a chance to do this [cut wasteful spending] for 15 years and whenever he was in the majority he helped make decisions that included constant and repeated increase in taxes, increases in fees, increases in spending,” he said.
“If we elect another go-along-to-get-along to the House this fall, you will see more bridges to nowhere, more earmark abuse, more of the same trend that caused voters to boot the Republicans out of office in the first place when they were defeated in 2006 and 2008,” Scaturro added.
Becker returned jabs to his opponent. “You definitely have to get a new research person, Frank [Scaturro], because you’ve got it all wrong. I don’t know what you are even talking about because you are not talking about my record for sure,” he said.
Defending his record, Becker informed onlookers that in the last 10 years, he voted against every tax increase that former Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi proposed. “I was responsible for defeating the energy tax, Frank. Do you know that? Where do you get this for 10 years? I don’t understand that. You’re talking about somebody else but it’s certainly not me. Frank, you’ve got to try to be honest, please. It’s not fair to have a public debate…” Becker was silenced by a riled up audience, who hissed, booed and heckled his remarks. The moderator had to intervene several times to quiet the crowd and told the candidates that personal attacks were not permitted.
Dan Maloney added, “I agree with Frank in one aspect. It will be harder for some people rather than others. It’s much harder for someone [Becker] who wants a political career and that’s his main driving interest. I expect to spend no more than six years in Washington. I’m not interested in a political career. I’m interested in getting the job done and getting home,” Maloney said.
The candidates were questioned about campaign finance reform, which elicited a spectrum of responses. Becker deflected the question and instead pointed out the current presidential administration’s failures. “I think at this particular point that the thing that’s most on people’s minds right now is certainly not campaign finance reform now, although there may be a place for a discussion on that. Right now, I think people are concerned mostly about the health of our economy and what our future holds. We have a President who seems numb to this country…” Becker went on to say that he would focus on his “five-point plan,” which he says would help create new jobs.
Scaturro pointed out that Becker had yet to explain what actually was in the five-point plan. “I’m not sure I’ve heard much of the ‘five-point plan’… we’ve certainly have seen a lot of taxing and spending over the last 15 years in this county, but to address the question that was asked about campaign finance regulation,” he said. “One reason incumbents have been re-elected at an alarming rate is because you have these restrictions that have done nothing to lessen corruption in our society,” Scaturro said. Maloney chimed in that he was in favor of removing “all restrictions on campaign finance and requiring only full disclosure of who is supplying the money. That’s the only way you are going to get to the truth,” Maloney said.
One constituent asked the candidates what action they would take on a national level to bolster the economy on Long Island and create sustainable jobs? “If I was looking for someone to represent me in Washington, I would like to know they have had some experience in business, have met with business owners,” Becker said. Maloney believes cutting the costs of energy is needed, as well as offshore drilling.
In closing comments, Scaturro said people are “voting with their feet,” leaving the state and the county. He said he started this process a year and a half ago. “I have put together the only viable campaign to unseat Carolyn McCarthy, a representative who has consistently voted against the best interests of her district,” Scaturro said. He added that he has been able to “raise more money than anyone has in the history of the district” in challenging the incumbent.
Becker said he was the best candidate for Congress because of his leadership in the Republican Party and in Nassau County government. “I am the only conservative on this panel that actually has a record… I am the only conservative and Republican that has not only talked the talk but walked the walk,” Becker said.
Maloney concluded, “This is a year in which commitment is the most important thing. Commitment to your principles, commitment to make the changes that are necessary and commitment to stand by them and commitment to leave when the job is done. That’s my commitment to you and that’s what I will bring you Sept. 14 and beyond.”
Voters can make their voices heard at the upcoming Republican primary on Tuesday, Sept. 14. The winner will face Democratic incumbent Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy for the 4th Congressional District seat in the November election.