Two candidates vying for New York’s Seventh Senate district shared their views Tuesday at a town hall style debate at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Manhasset hosted by the League of Women Voters Port Washington-Manhasset.
Incumbent state Senator Jack Martins (R, C- Mineola) and his opponent Daniel S. Ross (D, WFP-Manhasset) answered voters’ concerns on a wide range of topics, including marriage equality, access to birth control and abortion rights, hydro-fracking and more.
Dennis Walsh of Mineola asked Ross, who is 29, if at this age he is “prepared to start at the top.” Ross pointed out that he’s been committed to public service from his days as a Boy Scout to his 10 years as a volunteer with the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department, and training in homeland security. He also pointed to his current role operating a car dealership in Hicksville with 40 employees at car dealership and his the five years he spent working at Deutsche Bank.
Martins, in comparison, pointed to his perspective at age 45, having opened and run a law firm and the responsibility an entrepreneur addresses every week when making payroll. He also noted that he was elected four separate times as mayor of Mineola, and has a “long record of public service.”
Asked about abortion rights and a woman’s access to birth control, Martins said New York State has, even before Roe v. Wade, accepted the right for a woman to have an abortion, adding that the law “has been pretty well settled.”
He said that a woman’s ability to obtain birth control is “a personal decision and a healthcare decision, and certainly I respect that.”
“Personally I am pro-life,” he added. “I continue to be pro-life, but I’ve kept it in the context I just mentioned.”
Ross said he is "100 percent" behind a woman’s right to choose, and said he supports the Reproductive Health Act, stressing the importance of “everyone in this country, in this state to be afforded access to safe quality health care without fear of restriction. “
Asked for clarity on their views on marriage equality, Ross said he supports it.
Martins explained why he voted against it.
“I was part of the discussions and negotiations on the bill leading up to the vote," he said. "It was not an easy vote. There were variations being proposed. There were those of us who supported and proposed an alternative for civil unions, which was not the bill that was put on the floor.”
“I would have supported a civil union bill. Certainly, I don’t believe people who are in a loving relationship should have the laws discriminated against them. I didn’t feel the bill that was proposed was a something I could support, so I didn’t vote for it.”
On the subject of casino gambling at Belmont Park, Martins said, “It is not feasible or desirable to the area” adding that it was “not something the community wants from a redevelopment standpoint” and that it “raised concerns” about “social aspects” and consequences that coincide with casino gambling. However, he added that it might work elsewhere in the state, and that there are models to be followed.
Ross said he wouldn’t support it, but noted that there could be economic advantages to bringing it to New York State, and that the decision-making process should be transparent.
On hydrofracking, Ross said that the information available is not 100 percent conclusive yet. He added that while he supports energy independence and economic revitalization, he “wants to protect natural resources.”
Martins noted that “certain industries beginning to take hold upstate don’t necessarily rely on hydrofracking,” citing new tech centers west of Albany, as well as dairy farms and Greek yogurt plants. He added that he expects a report from the Department of Environmental Conservation to provide a health review, “when we get that choice to make between economic development and the need to ensure that we keep our environment safe.”
The full debate will be available on Cablevision and Verizon beginning Oct. 31. For more information, visit PATV.