MIDDLE VILLAGE, Queens – The four Democratic candidates competing for the Sixth Congressional District seat faced off Thursday night during a debate at the Our Lady of Hope School Auditorium.
The debate between Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, Assemblyman Rory Lancman, Assemblywoman Grace Meng and Dr. Robert Mittman was moderated by Lisa Colangelo of the New York Daily News. Covering everything from stop-and-frisk concerns in local neighborhoods to the national economy, each of the four rounds grew more intense as the debate progressed.
“I thought it was very well run, it was very well organized, and it was very interesting,” said Lu Sedowski of Middle Village.
Jeff Kaufman of Glendale, a high school government teacher, disagreed. The NYPD’s controversial “Stop & Frisk” program has grown to be a major concern in New York and he was disappointed that Crowley was the only candidate who responded to a question on the subject.
“These candidates don’t understand what Stop & Frisk does in racially charged neighborhoods,” said Kaufman, who is also a retired NYPD police officer. “My students, there isn’t a week that goes by that they don’t go home and get stopped at some point. Some of them tell me they don’t want to come to school because they don’t want to go through the hassle of going through the police.”
Generating the most reactions from the crowd was Mittman, whose comments generated a mix of laughs, boos and cheers. In his rebuttals to the opposition, Mittman often concluded with: “Politics as usual!”
“My ideas are those of the thousands of people that come to my practice,” Mittman said after the debate. “Everyone knows the answers. We’ve got to change the path that these career politicians have put us in.”
Mittman caught the audience’s attention off the bat, calling his competitors “career politicans.” But the strategy backfired toward the end of the debate. In the fourth and final round, when the candidates had the opportunity to ask questions of one another, Meng lashed out at Mittman.
“At every single debate you called the three of us career politicians,” Meng said. “What experience do you think you could bring to Congress since you don’t have experience in government. And if you were not a candidate in this campaign, which one of us would you vote for?”
Lancman, the supporter of a flat tax rate, also proved to be a fan favorite by the time the debate ended.
“I think Lancman came out the strongest,” said Marylynn Gallo of Middle Village. “He seemed more knowledgable, he didn’t come off as a typical politician, he seemed more sincere in his approach.”
The primary for the 6th, the congressional district that includes much of southeastern Queens, is slated for June 26.