The Women’s Equality Act, and specifically, the parts of it dealing with abortion, was a hotly debated issue between the two candidates for the second district state Assembly seat during a debate Monday night at Polish Hall in Riverhead, which was sponsored and moderated by news website RiverheadLocal.com.
Incumbent Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) is facing challenger Tom Schiliro (D-Manorville) in the race. Mr. Palumbo has the backing of the Republican and Conservative parties while Mr. Schiliro is backed by the Democrat, Independence and Working Famiies parties. Mr. Palumbo was elected to the Assembly seat in a special election in 2013 after then-Assembylman Dan LoSqaudro was elected Brookhaven Town highway superintendent. He is an attorney and former prosecutor.
Mr. Schiliro is a Suffolk County Parks Police sergeant who’s also been a teacher and the owner of a horse stable in Manorville.
According to Board of Elections records, Mr. Schiliro has both raised more campaign money and spent more that Mr. Palumbo in 2014, although Mr. Palumbo carried a significant amount of money over from 2013. In 2013, Mr. Palumbo’s campaign raised $152,120 and spent $151,373 on the special election. In 2014 disclosure filings, Mr. Palumbo has raised $37,430 and spent $22,766, while Mr. Schiliro, who didn’t have a campaign committee in 2013, has raised $43,135 and spent $34,574.
Here’s how both men stand on the issues that have come up this campaign season:
Palumbo: Says his opponent is running television ads “distorting my record” on the Women’s Equality Act, which Mr. Palumbo voted against in the Assembly, and which did not have the support of the Republican-controlled state Senate. ”I agreed with nine of the 10 points” in the bill, Mr. Palumbo said.
The bill was presented in the Assembly as one huge bill where all 10 points had to be either voted for or voted against. The section Mr. Palumbo said he opposes deals with abortion and would have extended abortion rights to the third trimester, expanded the types of doctors who can perform abortions and repealed the criminal aspects to abortion in the current low. The other nine points had passed the Senate but never came to a vote on the Assembly floor.
“So the speaker (Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver) controls what bills get to the floor,” Mr. Palumbo said. “Those bills that I sponsored would have been approved had any of them come to the Assembly floor, but they chose to play politics with women’s health and that’s offensive to me.”
Schiliro: Says he supports the whole bill.
As for the bill’s position on abortion, Mr. Schiliro said, “All this does is codify into law Roe v. Wade from 1972. This is an issue that has to be decided between a woman and her doctor and it’s absolutely disgusting that we debate this on a political stage.”
“I just heard that you’re for it, for it, for it, but yet you voted against it,” he said to Mr. Palumbo. “If you vote against it, then you can’t say you’re for it.”
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Schiliro: ”I’d rather be a member of the majority party any day,” Mr. Schiliro said. “You can get a lot more done.”
He feels that rather than having a caucus based on political parties, he will work with a “suburban caucus” of Assembly members dealing with issues to benefit areas like Long Island. Having a member of the majority part in charge of that caucus would be more effective, he said.
Palumbo: Says the Assembly majority members are expected to vote the way Assembly Speaker Sheldon Siver wants them to vote. Being a member of the minority party means he’s not beholden to the assembly leadership. ”The beauty of being a Republican is that we can fight to the death” on issues, he said. “You don’t need someone who his beholden to the machine. You need someone who is going to fight.”
Palumbo: Says he sponsored a bill to change the controversial Common Core State Standards. He said Governor Andrew Cuomo initially ignored those calls for change.
“We continued to yell and scream” and the governor eventually agreed to implement some of those changes, he said.
Schiliro: Also opposes Common Core. ”It’s almost like we have the same position,” he said. ‘The difference is that I speak from experience,” having been a school teacher and someone who has written curriculum.
Schiliro: Says EPCAL should be part of the Startup New York program, which gives businesses a 10-year exemption on property taxes and sales taxes if they locate there. He also feels solar energy should be located at EPCAL.
Palumbo: “Less government is more,” when it comes to EPCAL. He feels eliminating the state’s MTA payroll tax entirely will help draw businesses to EPCAL.
“Who in their right mind would come out to open a business with 25 or more people on Long Island with the cost of living and taxes so high?