WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- The tension was palpable in the room as Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and challenger Noam Bramson exchanged pointed remarks in their second debate.
Though previous public exchanges between the two candidates have been civil, the debate, held on Wednesday, Oct. 16 by the Westchester County Association, was notably combative.
This was largely on account of the debate structure which, unlike previous events, allowed for rebuttal.
Both candidates spent comparatively less time answering the questions being posed, and more calling one another out on various issues, including campaign accusations, alleged unethical practices and controversial endorsements.
For Republican Astorino, the focus was on Bramson's track record as mayor of New Rochelle. The county executive reiterated his long-standing accusation of Bramson giving himself a 40-percent pay raise upon becoming mayor, while cutting valuable services.
"No one has inflicted more pain on New Rochelle in its history than you," Astorino said to Bramson.
For Bramson, the focus was on Astorino's cuts to services such as childcare and protective services to women entering reproductive health clinics. Astorino denied the accusations.
"If you're going to make cuts that hurt people, you should at least be a man and admit to it," Bramson said.
Bramson, a Democrat, said Astorino is the most right-wing, conservative county executive Westchester has seen "in modern history." He accused his administration of being "the Tea Party with a smile."
Astorino noted that one of Bramson's chief supporters is Giulio Cavallo, a co-founder of the Westchester Tea Party.
"If you hate the Tea Party so much, you might want to look at who you hang out with," he said.
Bramson attempted, as in previous events, to bring up social issues such as marriage equality and women's right to choose in order to demonstrate Astorino's conservative leaning. Astorino wrote it off as having "nothing to do with the county."
Both candidates stressed the importance of shared services and the lowering of taxes.
The housing settlement was a topic of discussion, and both candidates were explicit in their positions. Astorino said he would firmly stand behind home-rule and not allow the federal government to change zoning.
Bramson said he would seek to work with the federal government but also keep municipalities needs in mind.
"We must make sure local needs are consistent with regional goals," he said.
Despite the confrontational atmosphere, in their opening and closing statements, both candidates asserted that the race is not fueled by personal indignation but rather by passion for the issues.
The debate was moderated by Steve Scott, a WCBS radio anchor mostly notably known for his show "Eye on Politics." Scott successfully kept command of the debate despite the fervor.
The final debate will be held on Oct. 23 at 5:30 p.m. by the League of Women Voters and Pace University at Pace Graduate Center at 1 Martine Ave in White Plains.
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