By Robert Press
The Great 34th Senate Debate
BRONX, NEW YORK, AUGUST 27- The race for the 34th State Senate seat is being billed as David vs. Goliath by many, and it was incumbent State Senator Jeff Klein who had the stones thrown at him by his challenger Oliver Koppell.
Before the Bronxtalk debate host Gary Axelbank spoke with the two candidates about the format, and chatted with both as the trio waited for the 'On the Air' signal. This
debate was taped during the afternoon to accommodate the schedules of both candidates, and shown at the shows regular 9 p.m. Monday night time slot. Host Gary Axelbank opened the show by introducing the two candidates, Incumbent 34th State Senator Jeff Klein, and challenger Oliver Koppell.
The first question about term limits was directed at the challenger who while he was in the City Council had been a part of overturning the will of the voters to set term limits on City Council members. Saying that he does not believe in term limits candidate Oliver Koppell then blasted Senator Klein for campaigning as a Democrat while making a a deal with the senate Republicans to keep the Republicans in charge of the state senate while there were more Democrats than Republicans.
Koppell then went on the attack again on other issues such as the Dream Act, minimum wage, and campaign finance reform, claiming it was all Senator Klein's fault that these Democratic values did not get enacted in the state senate. Senator Klein rebutted Koppell's attacks by saying that he was the sponsor of the legislation, and that it was two Democrats who did not vote in favor when there was a majority to pass the legislation. Senator Klein went on to name accomplishment after accomplishment that he done as Co-Leader of the State Senate.
Senator Klein then stated that candidate Koppell had endorsed the Republicans candidate for mayor (Michael Bloomberg) over the Democratic candidate (Bill Thompson). Fighting back candidate Koppell said that Senator Klein and his Independent Democratic Conference took contributions from the former mayor, that was answered by Senator Klein as for getting the work done. Senator Klein added several items that were done including getting $300 million for UPK. Senator Klein then mentioned many of the endorsements he has received from Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, almost every Bronx elected official, and the many many unions.
Candidate Koppell was asked why he was continuing his campaign after its main reason was to have Senator Klein rejoin with the Senate Democratic Conference which has been announced by Senator Klein, Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and many other Democratic leaders. Candidate Koppell responded, “Yes I have already won with Senator Klein returning to work with the Senate Democratic Conference, but the campaign will continue as I have a good chance of winning.”
When asked about the Mooreland Commission, Senator Klein said that he was in favor of it, but that there are other bodies of law that can do the same thing. Candidate Koppell then attacked Senator Klein by saying that he was on the board of a nursing home (not saying which one), and was silent when the Mooreland Commission was disbanded, also attacking Senator Klein's disclosure statement. Senator Klein replied that the state disclosure statements are tougher than the city council disclosure ones that candidates Koppell had to fill out in the City Council.
The next subject was the proposed 11-story medical center in Community Board 8. Klein said that Councilman Koppell missed the boat when the 197A rezoning plan was done while he was in the city council. Koppell returned that the area could not be rezoned, and before Senator Klein could get a word in candidate Koppell said that his wife represented two homeowners not the developer on Tuflan Terrace where a 11-story building went up almost next to the proposed site for the medical center. Senator Klein said that he now has to fix what Councilman Koppell did not do, and mentioned the new law he enacted with Assemblyman Dinowitz (Of Riverdale) to halt the proposed 11-story medical center. Senator Klein also mentioned that Councilman Koppell was in favor of another 11-story building on Broadway in North Riverdale that was to have 25 percent of its occupants who were classified as criminally mentally disturbed. Candidate Koppell defended his decision saying 'where will we house the mentally ill?.
Senator Klein then mentioned what candidate Koppell thinks about people who live outside of Riverdale especially what candidate Koppell said at a Morris Park concert on the east side of the Bronx in the district. Fresh Direct was the next subject with candidate Koppell in opposition to the deal, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.'s support of the Fresh Direct deal saying that he did not know how there were no living wage provisions especially when the BP had fought for it. Senator Klein said that he wants to create more jobs, and that he has with the Bronx Chamber of Commerce has started 'Bronx for Hire'.
The debate continued with Senator Klein and candidate Koppell upgrading themselves on their accomplishments over their opponent, with candidate Koppell saying that he had drafted up the original Safe Act legislation, not Senator Klein.
In his closing statement candidate Koppell read from a March 2012 article that appeared in the New York Post claiming Senator Klein had gamed the system, and possibly broken the law on tax breaks and failure to disclose income. Koppell then said that Ms. Candice Giove who wrote the article was now Senator Klein's campaign spokesperson.
In his closing statement Senator Klein said that the campaign of Oliver Koppell is all personal attacks, and no record to run on. Klein added that he is proud of his record, and what he has done as an elected official.
I asked Ms. Giove for a comment about what candidate Koppell said about her, and her response was :
"It's sad that Oliver Koppell's Women's Agenda includes putting down career choices of successful media professionals like myself. While it's true that I was one of five reporters who worked on an article about Sen. Klein, I have come to know the senator as a hardworking Democrat, who truly cares about each and every one of his constituents. I cannot say the same about Oliver Koppell, who I also covered as a reporter, and who has consistently insulted the intelligence of the people of New York. During Mr. Koppell's nasty campaign, I have also been the recipient of vicious emails from his wife, Lorraine Coyle Koppell, in an attempt to intimidate me from doing a job that I believe in.Shame on the Koppells."
Go to my blog at www.100percentbronx.blogspot.com for photos of the debate. You can catch the debate at www.bronxnet.org/ at the bronxtalk link.
If you have any comments about this column, would like to have an event listed or covered in this column or on my blog, you can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-644-4199 Mr. Robert Press.
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