Debate Begins Election Day Sprint
With a week to go before Election Day, candidates for Huntington Town Board met with residents Tuesday at Half Hollow Hills High School East.
At the Half Hollow Hills PTA debate, typically the last major Meet the Candidates night before the election in the Town of Huntington, the combative tone showed no signs of waning, and term limits, which Republicans have pledged to implement if elected, were an early point of disagreement.
Republican Town Board candidate Josh Price argued term limits would level the playing field by reducing the amount of time incumbents have to build up war chests and pool their money to launch “scurrilous” attacks against challengers. Councilman Gene Cook, who is running for Supervisor against Democratic incumbent Frank Petrone, accused Democrats of running a “smear” campaign; campaign finance records show the three Democratic candidates, as of 11 days before the election, have spent nearly $772,000 since January.
“If you don’t have term limits, the power of incumbency and all of that money they start the campaign cycle with makes the elections a lot less fair than they should be,” Price said.
The Republican ticket has not set a firm number of what that limit would be, but much of the discussion has been either for 8 or 12 years.
“It’s common throughout government to have term limits so that once you’ve done your job, you can move on,” Councilman Mark Mayoka, a Republican seeking re-election, added.
Cook said the Democratic ad campaign also illustrates his opponents’ attitude about money.
“If they spent, or in my opinion, wasted… their supporters’ money for a town election, “ Cook said, “can you imagine how little they value the dollar of the taxpayer?”
Democratic Councilman Mark Cuthbertson, however, said the negativity cuts both ways, noting that his son picked up a birthday card last week in the mail – along with an attack ad about his dad.
Petrone added that Democrats have held the line on spending and taxes.
“What we’ve done is we put money aside. I insist for my department heads that their budgets year ends with some dollars,” he said, noting that money goes into dedicated reserves. “Those dedicated reserves are there to keep your taxes down.”
Democratic candidate Tracey Edwards said proposed state reforms to create publicly financed campaigns could result a more level playing field. Referring to a pamphlet that outlines proposals she supports as her “score card,” she argued voters should always have the chance to make the final call.
“If I don’t get all these things done, my term limit is going to be over and you should vote me out,” she said.
Cuthbertson argued that term limits already do exist through elections.
“Every four years, I’ve had to stand before the voters and ask for their support, and they’ve been kind of enough to do that in the past,” he said.
Responding to a question pointed at Cook’s status as a relative newcomer to the board, Petrone said that experience at Town Hall should count when choosing a supervisor.
“The fiscal condition of our town – the triple-A bond rating, our holding the line on taxes – does not come from inexperience,” Petrone said.
But Cook said his 30 years of business and infrastructure experience gives him a “different outlook.”
“I can do the right thing for you and bring my business experience to the Town of Huntington,” Cook said.