Trump looms over Faso-Teachout debate
Republican candidate for 19th District seat declines to withdraw endorsement
ALBANY >> The race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton loomed over Thursday’s televised debate between 19th Congressional District candidates John Faso and Zephyr Teachout, but the two also faced questions about global warming, Syria and ending marijuana prohibitions.
“I think marijuana should be regulated like alcohol,” Teachout, a Dutchess County Democrat, declared during the hourlong debate, which was hosted and broadcast by WMHT public television. “And thanks for asking a question about drugs, though, because the issue that is really live throughout our district is what to do about the her-
Teachout said drug addiction should not be treated as a crime and that giving marijuana the same legal status as alcohol is the right thing to do.
“To answer your question directly — you always know where I stand — that’s the direction I think we should go,” she said.
Faso, a Columbia County Republican, said he would withhold judgment on pot until more is known about how marijuana legalization is working in Colorado. That state has dropped the pretense of medical marijuana used by other states and has legalized the cultivation, sale
and recreational use of the herb.
Faso is a former state assemblyman who has run and lost underdog statewide races for governor and comptroller in the Democraticdominated state. But the contest with Teachout, a law school professor who made her name by mounting a primary challenge against Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2014, is more of a toss-up.
It’s not clear what impact a big turnout in a presidential election year will have on the race, but the contest between Clinton and Trump came up repeatedly during the debate.
Both candidates agreed on one thing: Trump’s treatment of women. Faso called the GOP nominee’s remarks about sexually molesting women “reprehensible,” while Teachout said the billionaire
showman “called women pigs and dogs.”
Teachout again called on Faso to withdraw his endorsement of Trump.
Faso declined, saying, “The fact is the voters are intelligent enough to decide the race for president” without his input.
Faso has lived in the 19th District for decades, while Teachout moved to the district only shortly before launching her campaign. She is from Vermont, lived in Brooklyn until recently, and now lives in the Dutchess County town of Clinton. She is a law professor at Fordham University.
Faso portrayed Teachout as a carpetbagger and an extreme liberal who is out of touch with the mostly rural district, while Teachout criticized Faso for working as a
lobbyist and for his votes as a state legislator.
“He’s part of the system that isn’t working,” Teachout said.
Faso brought up the fact Teachout has benefited from campaign spending by billionaire George Soros.
On the subject of national defense, Faso and Teachout both opposed sending U.S. ground troops into Syria; Faso criticized Teachout for supporting the nuclear deal with Iran worked out by President Barack Obama; and Teachout criticized Faso for supporting President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
Faso criticized Teachout for supporting policies he said would raise the cost of energy in the district.
“She wants to raise taxes on propane, heating oil, diesel and gasoline,” the Republican
said. “This would be a disaster for our state and for our economy, upstate in particular.
“She just moved here from Brooklyn,” Faso added. “She doesn’t realize people used home heating oil to heat their houses, or propane ... those are carbon-intensive uses that will really hurt us with higher prices.”
Teachout said Faso mischaracterized her position on a carbon tax.
“I don’t believe that the big fossil fuel companies should be allowed to pollute our air and water for free,” she said.
The race in the 19th Congressional District, which includes some or all of 11 counties in the Mid-Hudson Valley and Catskills, is considered one of the most competitive in the nation this year. Faso and Teachout are running for
a seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, a retired career military officer who has served three two-year terms in the House. Gibson has been hired as a professor at Williams College.
Both Faso and Teachout praised Gibson, who has endorsed Faso while also keeping partisanship at arms length. Gibson and Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, won a standing ovation earlier this week at a forum at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs convened to talk about the need for less political posturing and more compromise in American politics.
The 19th Congressional District includes all of Ulster, Greene and Columbia counties, most of Dutchess County and some or all of seven other counties.
Congressional candidates Zephy Teachout, second from right, and John Faso, right, are shown during Thursday night’s debate.