Common Core, abortion rights hot topics at forum
By NED CAMPBELL
SCHENECTADY — It wasn’t a debate, but there was plenty of debating going on.
Candidates for state, county and city offices took turns debating topics such as Common Core educational standards and abortion rights Wednesday at a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Schenectady County and the local chapter of the American Association of University Women.“This is not a debate,” Linda Rizzo, a member of the AAUW who emceed the forum, told the candidates and more than 100 spectators gathered in Schenectady High School’s Black Box Theatre at the start of the event.
Early in the forum, Madelyn Thorne, the Democrat challenging 38-year incumbent Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, for his 49th District seat, came out strong in support of the Women’s Equality Act.
“I am not nine tenths of a person,” she said, referring to the Senate’s refusal to pass the entire 10-part package of legislation.
She, like many of the legislation’s supporters, said the 10th bill in question simply codifies Roe vs. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in favor of abortion rights.
“Nobody belongs in a woman’s doctor’s office but that woman and her doctor,” she said. “This is something I will go to bat for.”
Farley disagreed and called the 10th point a “radical abortion bill.” He said language allowing a pregnancy to be terminated for the health of the mother was “very, very nebulous.”
“It could be all kinds of things such as mental health, anxiety, upset stomach — so many things,” he said. “It allows for late-term abortion.”
Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Colonie, agreed with Thorne and said he was strongly pro-choice.
“That is a right that I think my daughter should have,” he said.
Thomas Jasiewicz, his Republican challenger for the 110th District seat, said the Legislature should pass the other nine bills on their own.
“You could have 9 out of 10 right now if you had done your job three months ago,” he said.
Candidates also debated whether Common Core should be reformed or thrown out altogether. Jasiewicz, who works in construction, said he entered the race after seeing his daughter struggle with the newly implemented standards.
“I was a math and science major, and I struggled to help my daughter with her third-grade homework,” he said. “I’m all for higher standards, but the Common Core is not the answer.”
Steck said he supported the Common Core’s higher standards but called their implementation by the state Education Department “horrible.” He also said he would fight to eliminate the testing component of the Common Core.
“I support higher standards; we all want that for our children,” he said.
The forum also featured remarks and responses from Schenectady County Court judicial candidates Kenneth Litz and Matthew Sypniewski; Schenectady County Family Court judicial candidates Ursula Hall, Jill Polk and Deanna Siegel; Schenectady City Court candidates Robert Hoffman and Kathryn McCary; City Council candidates Joseph Kelleher, Edward Kosiur, Robert Barnes and John Ferrari; and 111th Assembly District candidate Peter Vroman.
The incumbent in the 111th, Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, did not attend because his father is recovering from major heart surgery.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4.
This story originally appeared in The Daily Gazette.