Republican Jane Corwin and Democrat Kathy Hochul, who are running to replace resigned GOP Rep. Chris Lee in New York’s 26th district, faced off in a debate Thursday morning, sparring over entitlements, spending, and at one point their husbands’ cars.
Democrats have sought to turn the race into a referendum on the House GOP’s proposal to privatize and cut Medicare and Hochul repeatedly brought up Corwin’s support for the Republican budget.
“I for one think that everything should be on the table, entitlements, defense spending, but also revenues,” Hochul said when asked what she would cut. “I don’t think its fair to ask our seniors to have to get a voucher and be on their own with private insurance companies … so they can continue with tax breaks for millionaires.”
Corwin cited the GOP’s Medicare plan as part of her approach to cutting the deficit and accused Hochul of hurting small businesses by calling for an end to Bush tax cuts affecting the wealthy, but later said she would consider altering the Republican budget if elected.
“It’s not perfect, but it’s a plan that puts us in the right direction,” she said. “Is it a plan that can be tweaked, is it a plan we can make some changes to? Absolutely.”
Hochul countered that Congress had already voted on the plan with Corwin’s support.
“It’s not a proposal, it was passed by the House of Representatives on April 15 and you can’t look back,” she said.
The debate turned personal at one point during a round consisting of pop quiz questions on the candidates’ knowledge of the district that also touched on their personal wealth and assets.
Asked how many cars their family owned, each said four — a Chevy Equinox, a Cadillac Escalade, a Range Rover, and a Mercedes for Corwin and for Hochul a Dodge Durango, Cadillac EST, a Ford pickup, and another car for her children. But Corwin pressed the issue, saying that Hochul’s husband also drove a Lexus.
“My husband doesn’t own a Lexus,” Hochul responded. “You did not see my husband in a Lexus.”
“Um, pretty sure I did,” Corwin shot back.
Absent from the debate was Tea Party candidate Jack Davis, who has polled competitively in the race on an isolationist platform using his own wealth as seed money for the campaign. He made news that morning himself, however, when Republicans released a clip that they claimed showed him assaulting a video tracker asking him why he skipped the debate.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.