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Trump, Migrants Dominate NYC Congressional Primary Debate

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 8/11/2022 Marie-Rose Sheinerman

(Bloomberg) -- The six leading Democratic candidates for New York’s newly redrawn 10th Congressional district sparred Wednesday night over immigration, former President Donald Trump and hyper-local issues like crumbling roadways, congestion pricing and street parking rules.

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The district, which stretches across Lower Manhattan and Chinatown and throughout Brownstone Brooklyn and Sunset Park, was formed after a redistricting upheaval redrew Congressional lines and created a melting-pot district with centers of influence among Asian, Black, Hispanic, Jewish and LGBTQ voters in one of the most liberal areas of the US. 

The candidates highlighted the diversity of the new district: 

Yuh-Line Niou, 39, a Taiwanese-American immigrant who was elected to the state Assembly in 2016Mondaire Jones, 35, among the first openly gay members of Congress, currently represents Westchester but said he was drawn to his “spiritual home” of Greenwich Village as “the birthplace of the LGBTQ+ rights movement”Carlina Rivera, 38, a Manhattan City Council member raised by a single mother who emigrated from Puerto RicoJo Anne Simon, 69, a civil rights lawyer who joined the state Assembly in 2015Liz Holtzman, 81, a former House representative and city comptrollerDaniel Goldman, 46, an heir to the Levi Strauss & Co. fortune and former Trump prosecutor during the first impeachment trial

Governor Abbott v. Mayor Adams 

The first question of the debate focused on the bus loads of migrants that Texas Governor Greg Abbott has been sending to New York City and Mayor Eric Adams’ criticism of Abbott’s decision to use people as “political pawns.” 

The candidates agreed with Adams’s criticisms of Abbott but said the buses highlight a broader need for immigration reform in the US.

When asked whether they would join Adams in going to Texas and campaigning against Abbott for the governor’s race, all the candidates raised their hands in agreement. Holtzman and Simon also called for investigating whether Abbott has broken any federal laws.

Niou took the immigration debate one step further, calling for the elimination of US Immigration and Customers Enforcement, or ICE.

Read More: NYC Mayor Slams Texas Governor for Busing Migrants to City

Levi Strauss Wealth

If elected, Goldman would become one of the richest members of Congress. Competitors attacked Goldman throughout the debate for dipping into his personal fortune to contribute $1 million to fund his race, with Rivera calling him “a walking campaign-finance loophole” and accusing him of “trying to buy this election.”

Goldman defended his decision to use personal money to allow him to “talk more to voters than to donors.” The worry shouldn’t be about buying the race but about the other candidates “selling the seat” by taking corporate and real estate money, he said.

He also said he supports the Ban Congressional Stock Trading Act, a bill that would require members of Congress to divest themselves of their assets or place them in a blind trust.

Read More: Levi Strauss Heir Would Join Congress’s Richest With Win in NYC

Attacks on Trump

Goldman continued his drumbeat against Trump, highlighting his role in the impeachment hearings and warning voters that “Trump will run again and he will try to steal the election.”

Holtzman also appealed to the district’s liberal voters by highlighting fears of “MAGA Republicans” and called Trump a “clear and present danger.” Jones said one of the first actions he took in Congress was to vote to impeach Trump and he called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to more aggressively use his “investigatory powers.”

The candidates also appeared to learn a lesson from a debate earlier this month for a neighboring district, when Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler failed to express support for President Joe Biden’s run for re-election. 

Read More: Maloney Apologizes to Biden After Saying He Won’t Run in 2024

When asked on Wednesday whether they think Biden should run in 2024, all candidates in the NY-10 debate answered in the affirmative.

“If he desires to run for re-election, I will continue to support him,” Jones said.

Congestion Pricing 

Lower Manhattan would be among the neighborhoods impacted by a proposed congestion pricing policy, which would charge some motorists as much as $23 to enter the city’s central business district. 

All candidates said they supported the pricing plan, which could go into effect as soon as 2023 and bring in $1 billion in annual revenue each year for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. 

Goldman said he wanted further study to see if parts of Lower Manhattan with more restricted access to public transit should be exempted, while others mentioned carve-outs based on income.

Read More: NYC Congestion Pricing Will Bump Some Drivers Costs to $120 

‘No, thank you’ de Blasio

When asked whether they have sought or accepted an endorsement from Bill de Blasio, who recently dropped out of the NY-10 race, all the candidates said they had not sought the backing from the former New York City mayor, and some said they wouldn’t accept it.

Niou, however, put it the most politely: “No, thank you,” she said. 

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