Today’s news:

Pheffer, Sullivan face off in bid for Assembly seat

State Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D−Rockaway Beach) is pointing to her 21 years of experience in her re−election bid against Republican Breezy Point resident Gerald Sullivan, but her challenger contended the district needs a new face in Albany.

Pheffer said she has brought home billions of dollars in education funding to the district, which covers Howard Beach, Ozone Park, South Ozone Park, Broad Channel and the Rockaways, while delivering grants to organizations such as the Rockaway Artists Alliance and various ambulance corps.

“We have delivered for the constituents,” she said during a phone interview Friday.

But Sullivan, who works from his Breezy Point home for a Connecticut−based financial services company, said Pheffer has not been an effective elected official.

“In the 21 years that Assemblywoman Pheffer has been in Albany, I’ve seen a decline in the quality of life in the district,” he said in a Friday phone interview.

Both candidates see the financial crisis as the prime issue in the district.

“The economy and jobs are taking an immediate precedent,” Pheffer said. “I think people are concerned about the economy.”

The assemblywoman said the newly announced deal that will bring video lottery terminals to Aqueduct Race Track in South Ozone Park will alleviate the state’s budget woes.

She also touted the 2,000 jobs created by the deal.

But Sullivan said he was on the fence on the plans for Aqueduct.

“I don’t know how successful that will be,” he said.

Sullivan called for the state to look into $5 billion in Medicaid fraud as a way to help out with the budget deficit.

“I don’t think the Assembly has the wherewithal to make the necessary cuts,” he said, suggesting raising taxes should not be an option.

“I think that’s an easy way out,” he said.

Pheffer said she was telling her constituents that vital services would not be cut from the budget, but said she would have to look at what cuts to make.

“We’re going to have to see,” she said.

Pheffer also said she was an advocate of smaller class sizes and an increase in pre−kindergarten classes.

On education, Sullivan said he supported giving tax credits to parents who send their children to private schools, pointing out that two high schools in the district have graduation rates below 50 percent.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e−mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 173.

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