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Sparks fly at Assembly debate

Yes, they both position themselves as grassroots advocates.

But, the differences between the two candidates for Assembly in the 46th A.D. were more apparent than the similarities during a candidate’s forum hosted by the Bay Ridge Community Council (BRCC), on Tuesday, October 27.

In a turnaround from the prior debate between Democrat Pamela Harris and Republican Lucretia Regina-Potter – held two weeks earlier by the Dyker Heights Civic Association – it was Regina-Potter who found herself in the hot seat, as audience members drew out her positions on abortion rights, gun violence and the minimum wage.

As a result, over the course of the evening, Regina-Potter – who is endorsed by the Right to Life Party — doubled down on her condemnation of Planned Parenthood, centering on controversial videos that purported to show representatives of the not-for-profit selling body parts from aborted fetuses.

BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photos by Helen Klein
BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photos by Helen Klein

While, as questioner Frankie Marra pointed out, the videos – produced by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-choice group – had been broadly discredited, Regina-Potter refused to walk back her previous statements as requested by Marra, who called the videos a “hoax.”

“It’s your opinion that the videos are a hoax,” Regina-Potter responded. “I don’t believe it. These people are brokering baby parts on camera.”

Asked about legislative fixes (particularly on the federal level) that could address the flow of guns — many of which come from states where gun laws are far more lax than in New York — into the hands of New York criminals, Regina-Potter declared, “There needs to be more enforcement,” and contended, “You hear about gun violence and automatically, persecution goes to law-abiding citizens,” who, she said, already need to “jump through hoops” in New York to own their weapons.

“Stop the persecution of people who follow the law,” Regina-Potter declared. “My question is, where are the guns coming from and how are they getting into the hands of hardened criminals? We have to get the hardened criminals off the streets.”

For her part, Harris – a retired corrections officer — said that she believed that it should be as difficult to get a license to carry a gun as it is to get a driver’s license. She also urged that more services were needed for the mentally ill, as well as outreach through community, youth and faith-based organizations that can provide alternatives that help keep young people from joining gangs.

“Whatever it takes to help to curb the violence,” she contended, “I believe it should be done. Whatever it takes to bring everyone home safely, absolutely.”

Harris – who stressed, “I’ve been doing the work well before it needed to be done, doing what it takes to be the assemblymember from the district, dealing with youth, seniors and all the district” — also reminded her listeners of the organization she founded, Coney Island Generation Gap, which seeks to give young people constructive alternatives, arming them with video cameras and teaching them to film documentaries. “I have an organization that has helped to stop crime,” she said.

As for the minimum wage, the candidates were asked if either of them would be willing to work for under $15 an hour.

“Absolutely not,” said Harris, noting that “affordability is one of the toughest things right now. No one should have to roll the dice to figure out what they are going to pay for, should they feed their family this month, because they’re only living on $15,000 a year.”

Regina-Potter, however, said that it would be a burden on already overburdened small business owners to have to pay a $15 minimum wage, and that requiring it would only cut back on jobs the small businesses are able to provide. Indeed, she said that she “guarantee[d]” that less than half of small business owners were themselves making $15 an hour. “They are the backbone of the community and they bear the brunt of what the city and state impose on us. They struggle to keep their doors open every day.”

The 46th A.D. includes parts of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Coney Island, Brighton Beach and Seagate. Election Day is Tuesday, November 3.

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