Maloney-O’Donnell Congressional Debate Attendees Insist “We Stand for the Flag!” At Start of Actual Debate
By Edie Johnson
Orange County citizens filled the Kaplan Hall at SUNY Newburgh to hear candidates for Congress Sean Patrick Maloney and James O’Donnell debate a dozen or so issues of importance. A stunning moment occurred at the outset when the debate was about to begin and someone in the audience yelled out “Aren’t we going to stand for the flag and say the Pledge of Allegiance”. To a response of “No, we’re going forward with the debate”, there was a murmur, a few soft “boo’s”, and then quietly, the entire audience respectfully stood, put their hands over their hearts, and repeated the Pledge. Only then could the sometimes heated, sometimes friendly debate of the two proud candidates, both of Irish heritage, begin, discussing questions from moderators Barry Lewis and Ken Hall of the Times Herald Record and the Orange County Citizens’ Foundation who sponsored the event. The format was a little different this time, with the candidates being encouraged to do some discussion between them.
They talked serious issues in depth. Early discourse on the topic of security and gun violence showed a clear difference, with Maloney emphasizing that he believes there is no place for AR15’s, the most common mass murdering instrument, on the streets, and certainly not in the hands of individuals having already been deemed dangerous or unstable. O’Donnell differed, saying that while he agreed with the premise of limiting guns capable of mass murder, he felt that there needed to be a more specific definition of what constitutes an assault rifle. Maloney retorted that “We define things down to molecules. Surely we can define an AR15.” But while O’Donnell did agree with the necessity of much better mental health care services and monitoring, he said that at the bottom line “When danger is in front of you the only way you can fight deadly force is with deadly force.” But he added “If you can give me a good definition, I’d look at it.” Maloney urged that officials “Need to stop doing nothing about it.”
Both candidates disagreed with President Trump’s idea of eliminating the birth rights of citizens born in the US but of illegal immigrant parents.
When the debate hit the topic of Health Care and issues of “Pro-Life vs Pro Choice” advocates, the candidates’ stances were largely along party lines, Maloney being a democrat and O’Donnell republican. The bottom line to Maloney was that the choice of abortion should be decided between a woman and her physician, and within the limits set by law. O’Donnell objected in that he said New York’s progressive laws are now allowing non-physicians to make that choice, and “It will make New York the abortion capital of the world.” He gave the example of one of his own children who was born at about 3 months, but only survived for a short time, but still, he said should have and was given the choice to live. Maloney said that given the instances where it is necessary, he objected to O’Donnell’s references to it as “homicide”. O’Donnell responded “That’s where it is in the penal code” …. to which an outspoken audience member shouted several times “Jesus would call it homicide”.
Immigration policies were more agreed upon than many of the other topics that were discussed, with both candidates being children of parents emanating from Ireland. But O’Donnell was in favor of stronger border security. Maloney objected to the expense of a wall.
Possibly the biggest ‘hot topic’ of the evening was the Affordable Care Act. O’Donnell agreed that all citizens have the right to good health care, but dismissed Obamacare saying that costs have not been reduced as promised and people were not allowed to keep their doctor of choice. While he said he would not want existing condition protections removed, Maloney said that he did not trust republicans to hold to that promise. O’Donnell said that the best solution would be open competition to keep prices down, and restrictions on prescription costs.
Maloney said he was especially proud of the protections he was able to give the Hudson River against oil barges. But O’Donnell challenged him about running for the Attorney General spot, and trying to retake his Congressional seat only as a backup plan. But the most heated discussion came when Maloney charged O’Donnell with having led the charge to sell the county’s Valley View Nursing Home to a questionable buyer and under the precept that it was dragging the county down financially. O’Donnell retorted that the claim of him pushing the sale and saying “I hope we have the 21 votes to sell it”, had been incorrectly reported, and that he had said it should only be sold UNLESS financial examination could show that it could end up in the black. Maloney pointed out that it was mismanagement that had caused the home’s fiscal stress, and that when rectified it could now boast a $51 M surplus. He added that with O’Donnell making frequent visits there now, “You can’t buy your way back in there with more ice cream.” O’Donnell reminded that the surplus money had long been in question, it being an Intergovernmental Transfer Fund that might have portions of its fund spent in the future, and that the reason the IGT payments are currently so high is because so many of the other county owned nursing homes in the state have gone under or been sold. Maloney countered that the entire sale proposal has been recommended to undergo a criminal investigation.
Both candidates agreed that college needed to become more affordable, and that at least some of the United States’ new trade agreements have been helpful.
See this and many other great stories and photos in this week’s Orange County Post.