City & State’s Great Debate at the Federal Hall National Memorial was more cordial than many of the actual presidential debates, but proxies for presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, John Kasich and Donald Trump defended their candidates and got in a fair number of jabs at each other.
Democratic Assemblyman Michael Blake, who spoke on behalf of Clinton, and former state Sen. Tom Duane, who supports Sanders, squared off first.
Blake touted Clinton’s experience and legislative record, arguing that she has proven she is an effective politician. The assemblyman claimed that Sanders relies on “talking points” that have no real substance.
“When asked about how to address the challenges of education as it relates to public education and has a $75 billion price tag, not one accomplice has been able to indicate how we would pay for it at all,” Blake said. “When asked in the Daily News editorial review, when asked during all last week, not once has he been able to say how it’s going to be paid for. In contrast, Secretary Clinton has said let’s focus on getting education debt-free.”
Duane fired back at Blake by questioning Clinton’s transparency and trustworthiness and painted her as a career politician. Duane touted Sander’s pledge to provide free health care and college education.
“Bernie Sanders if for free education cradle to grave and one of the finest things we have in the city of New York is our City University. It used to be it was free,” Duane said. “We can have that again through his political will, and I believe with Bernie Sanders as president would make that happen. The most important thing about Bernie Sanders is that he just doesn’t accept the system the way it is.”
After Duane and Blake left the stage, Republican political consultant Roger Stone, a longtime Trump supporter, and New York City Councilman Eric Ulrich, who spoke on behalf of Kasich, sat down to debate.
Stone argued Trump is the best candidate because he has never ran for office before and has made his mark as a successful businessman.
“I think Trump embodies New Yorkers’ resilience, their combatant-ness, their optimism, willingness to persevere under difficult circumstances. I think Trump’s appeal is very much aspirational. I think in many ways he symbolizes for people economic success,” Stone said. “He is an executive running for the office of chief executive. His greatest attribute, I think, would be the fact that he is not beholden to any special interest.”
But Ulrich painted Trump has an extreme candidate who does not understand the complexities of policy issues, such as immigration reform and job creation.
“Since the very first debate, I think Governor Kasich has demonstrated that he was one of the only adults in the room and he couldn’t get much airtime and he couldn’t get much attention,” Ulrich said. “Now that we’re down to the final three, I think we’re starting to realize Governor Kasich has the maturity on issues, like immigration.”
Ulrich and Stone also weighed in on the candidates immigration positions, including as Trump’s proposal to build a border wall to separate Mexico, and his proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from immigrating into the country.
“The public, in particular, seems to have an insatiable appetite for controversial people and controversial things,” Ulrich said. “And the fact that Donald Trump has been able to use that to his advantage to hijack the Republican Party so he can secure the nomination is what really disturbs me.”