The two minor-party candidates battling Democratic nominee Brad Lander in his race to succeed Councilman Bill DeBlasio and represent a liberal swath of Brownstone Brooklyn hit the front-runner with their best shots last Friday, but Lander emerged unscathed.
Though he had nothing to gain and everything to lose, Lander patiently sat through attacks from Green Party candidate David Pechefsky and Republican nominee Joe Nardiello in a debate held in our offices as all three sought The Brooklyn Paper’s endorsement.
The debate is worth watching on BrooklynPaper.com, if only for these revelations:
• Nardiello is the only candidate opposed to gay marriage — not that he said it outright.
“I have an open mind,” he said, when asked if homosexuals should be allowed to marry. “There’s nothing I would want better for friends of mine to be able to live in love the way they want to and have the same civil rights as we do. But we have a bill right now in the state that will be debated, and I will be watching that. We have to reflect the values of our community, which is very diverse and fragmented on this issue.”
Pechefsky and Lander said they were both for gay marriage. Lander called it a “fundamental civil right.”
• Pechefsky’s main issue is the Council’s “member item” system, under which lawmakers get to dole out money to local organizations with very little oversight.
“It’s like playing Santa Claus,” he said, challenging Lander’s commitment to reform.
For his part, Lander said that any group receiving member item money from him would have to account exactly how it spent the money.
• Nardiello claimed that Lander’s endorsement by the Working Families Party would lead to a “payoff” for the party if he’s elected.
“The Working Families Party will expect their piece of pie,” he said. “Where’s the payoff? Where is the quid pro quo, because you know there is going to be one?”
Lander answered directly. “I’ll tell you where it is: strong support of the paid sick days bill,” he said. “The Working Families Party’s big campaign is to make sure that every New Yorker who works can get a paid sick day. Hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers don’t have it. I’m proud to support that legislation.”
Nardiello was not satisfied.
“It’s at the core of who is a politician and who isn’t,” he said. “I can fight just as hard for anything he said, especially minimum wage.”
Oh, but not on the sick day bill, he admitted.
“Actually, I don’t support that,” he said. “You can’t force small businesses to do that kind of thing in the middle of the recession.”
• Pechefsky spent most of his allotted time questioning Lander on whether he would cast his first Council vote — for the next speaker — for someone who had voted for the extension of term limits.
“Is that a threshold issue for you, as it is for me?” Pechefsky asked, beginning one of the debate’s testier moments.
Lander refused to answer the question, saying it’s too early to know who he’ll vote for as speaker because “we don’t know who the candidates are.”
Election Day is Nov. 3.