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Carrozza seat candidates vie for votes at debate

The five candidates vying for state Assemblywoman Ann-Margaret Carrozza’s (D-Bayside) seat told Mitchell-Linden Civic Association members during a debate last week that they would fight special interests and lobbyists if voters send them to Albany.

Democrats Steve Behar, Edward Braunstein, John Duane and Elio Forcina as well as Republican Vince Tabone mostly agreed on a series of topics, from Medicaid fraud to job creation in the district, during the debate held by the civic last Thursday in Flushing.

But the five opponents clashed over who among them would be the most independent voice in the state Legislature.

Each of them vowed to do their part to make Albany less dysfunctional.

“Our budget is a disaster,” said Behar, an attorney who previously ran for former Councilman Tony Avella’s seat. “It was passed over 120 days late. Every time there is a budget crisis, the government decides to balance the budget on the backs of the middle class.”

All five candidates proposed fighting Medicaid fraud in the state as a means of reducing the budget.

“We spend more than Texas or California, which have twice our population,” said Tabone, an attorney for John Catsimitidis’s Red Apple Group. “We need to start acting like adults again and being careful with taxpayers’s money.”

Forcina, a Whitestone attorney, said money lost to Medicaid fraud could be better spent on constituent services.

“There’s a lot of that money that should go into senior services,” he said. “Certain things should not be cut - elder care, education, money for autistic children.”

Duane, a former assemblyman in the district in the 1980s, said another method to reform dysfunctional Albany would be to reform how campaigns raise and spend funds.

“Sadly, some of the legislators who were in Albany in 1983 and 1984 are still there,” he said. “I think campaign finance reform is a fundamental change we need in Albany.”

Mitchell-Linden members asked the candidates to discuss community issues that were specific to the Flushing civic.

Braunstein, who previously worked in constituent services for state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), said he believed overdevelopment and traffic-related issues were pertinent to the neighborhood.

“As of late, there has been a tremendous effort to rebuild downtown Flushing,” he said. “It creates jobs and we need to find places to house people. But we need to find the right construction. There will be a lot of traffic and less parking.”

Each candidate told civic members that they would be an independent voice amid Albany’s culture of party politics.

Duane said he would not accept funding from “corporate special interests,” while Forcina pointed out that the money his campaign has raised has primarily been from northeast Queens.

Tabone said he believed the state was in disarray due to “one-party rule in Albany” and Braunstein called for “independent ethics oversight” in the Legislature.

Behar vowed to “stop the revolving door that allows politicians to go up to Albany, learn the ropes, leave five years later and become a lobbyist.”

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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