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Pat Ryan, Colin Schmitt take shots at each other over abortion at Ulster Chamber event

Daily Freeman logo Daily Freeman 9/28/2022 Patricia R. Doxsey, Daily Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Sep. 27—KINGSTON, N.Y. — A call for bipartisanship from Pat Ryan and Colin Schmitt, the two candidates for the 18th Congressional District, didn't stop the two men from taking shots at each other — including when discussing abortion— during an Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce "meet the candidates" breakfast Tuesday.

Ryan is a Democrat from Gardiner and former Ulster County executive who was elected to the 19th Congressional district seat during a special election in August. Schmitt, is a two-term Republican assemblyman from New Windsor in Orange County.

Not surprisingly, the two had starkly divergent views on some of the most pressing issues facing the country today.

Ryan criticized the recent Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, which he said broke the agreement the nation had with the American people and took a "deeply personal, gut-wrenching" health care decision out of the hands of women and put it in the hands of the government.

"I feel pretty strongly this goes squarely against who we are as a country, who we are as a nation," Ryan said.

Schmitt said he is "pro-life" and called Ryan's position — which he characterized as one that would permit taxpayer-funded abortion up to the moment of birth and would prohibit parental notification laws — "extreme."

"Eighty-one percent of Americans disagree with my opponent's extreme position," said Schmitt.

Ryan shot back, saying Schmitt was mischaracterizing Ryan's position on abortion, which he said is to simply reinstate the framework that Roe v. Wade created. He called Schmitt's attempts to frame it differently "kind of embarrassing, frankly."

On the opioid epidemic, Schmitt said the federal government needs to do more to tighten its southern border to stop the flow of illegal fentanyl into the U.S. He called for the use of "physical infrastructure," and "advance technology" as well as fully staffing the U.S. Border Patrol to combat the flow of undocumented individuals from entering the U.S.

"Every piece of illicit fentanyl poison coming into our community is coming across the border," Schmitt said.

"If we do not focus on the failed policies we have here, the sanctuary cities, sanctuary counties and the like, we will not solve this problem," he said.

Ryan said Congress must provide more funding for addiction treatment centers and work to "destigmatize and decriminalize" those who are addicted to opioids.

He said he voted for the passage of the "Invest to Protect" bill in Congress which provides grant funding for small police forces to use for various activities, including purchasing body cameras, providing de-escalation training, and improving recruitment and retention. Ryan said Congress must also provide additional funding to "laser focus" law enforcement on those who are selling drugs.

The two also exchanged barbs while discussing the need to improve cyber security, with Ryan taking a jab Schmitt for an anecdote about the owner of a pickle store expressing concern about the security of his equipment and Schmitt claiming Ryan, as the founder of a data analytic company, sold information to Russia.

Despite the exchanges, both men vowed to work across the aisle to reform government and deliver solutions to the problems facing the country.

Schmitt said that as a state assemblyman he is "the most bipartisan member" of the Local Government Committee, which he described as the "most bipartisan" committee in the Assembly. He said that with Republicans expected to regain control of Congress in November having that ability to work across the aisle will become more important than ever.

Ryan said that he will continue to use the experience he gained as county executive and as an Army officer to bring people together to accomplish "the mission." That experience, he said, is already paying dividends in the bipartisan support he was able to garner for a bill he introduced that would expand eligibility for home loans for veterans.

(c)2022 Daily Freeman, Kingston, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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