Editor's note: This is the second in a four-part series on an OBSERVER/Post-Journal debate between Republican Andy Goodell and Democrat Nancy Bargar for the 150th New York State Assembly seat. The candidates answered the following question: Why is your opponent not as qualified as you are to represent the 150th Assembly district?
By JASON RODRIGUEZ
Special to the OBSERVER
Facing one another from across the table, Nancy Bargar and Andy Goodell had plenty to say about each other's qualifications for the state Assembly.
While the pair discovered common ground in response to other questions, a discussion of their qualifications featured heated remarks, accusations and counter arguments.
"I have 10 years of service in the legislative branch of government," Ms. Bargar said in her opening remarks, "and my opponent's background is on the executive side."
But she added she differs from her opponent in the manner of solving problems, since Goodell, who is an attorney, would be inclined to take issues to the court system. Goodell's past in public service as well as his private practice are tarnished by controversy, she said.
"My opponent has an unfortunate pattern of doing things first, denying them and later apologizing for them," Ms. Bargar said. "This is not negative campaigning that I am getting into. It is part of the public record and it needs to be said."
She highlighted Goodell's involvement in the "tax spying" plan from the state department of taxation and finance, and said he suggested the initiative to the tax commissioner but later apologized. Goodell, who was county executive at the time, countered her claim as he said the state department does not take its direction from local officials, and an article from The Post-Journal quoting commissioner James Wexler supports this reality, he said.
Continuing the exchange, Goodell claimed Ms. Bargar explicitly used the term "convince" to implicate his complicity with the tax commissioner. Bargar denied using such language in her campaign, but Goodell played a recording of a recent radio ad during which she used the word twice.
"To suggest I convinced him (Wexler) to do something else is flat-out wrong, he said. "I denied recommending what they ultimately did, and I still deny it. I have never, ever admitted recommending what they did. To say I convinced them to do it when the tax commissioner himself said that's not true, is negative campaigning that is just not true."
Ms. Bargar said Goodell's is reference to Wexler's comment is refuted by a pair of articles published in the Dunkirk Observer and the Buffalo News, which she showed during the debate. In the latter article, Wexler said of Goodell: "He specifically asked us to go there and find who was shopping and notify them about the use tax."
She also said Goodell's activities as attorney contradict his message to "clean up Albany," since he was paid as a lobbyist for multiple clients. In one instance, she said Goodell was paid nearly $100,000 by a developer seeking to profit from a casino and race track facility in New York.
"I am an attorney and I represent a lot of clients. If I have a client that is working with the state, I am required by law to become a registered lobbyist," said Goodell. "It doesn't mean I run a lobbying firm out of Jamestown, it means I register as a lobbyist and I comply with all the lobbying requirement acts when I represent a client."
He added voters want a "positive, issue-oriented campaign, not an inaccurate, negative campaign."
Ms. Bargar said Goodell's recent legal challenge to election commissioner Norman Green was less about fighting corruption and more about personal gain. At worst, the issue is a distraction from the real issues, she said.
''Goodell intentionally brought my name into the case, she said. "And my legal bills have come to about $5,000 for this. It accomplished one thing that I can tell - I was thrown off that line, and that was the goal, in my mind. If the real mission of his lawsuit was to change something about the board of elections, I don't think he has taken it far enough, because I don't see how that has happened as a result of initiating this lawsuit."
But Goodell said inserting Ms. Bargar as a defendant was required by law. He said he could not have challenged Norm Green's actions - his delay to file Parment's declination for the Independence party line - without naming everyone who might be affected.
"When you bring a lawsuit that affects somebody else, you have to name them as a matter of law and also as a courtesy,'' Goodell said. ''I named Nancy Bargar in the suit against Norm Green, not because I'm suing Nancy Bargar, but because she has the right to know what is going on in a lawsuit that might affect her. She had no legal obligation to do anything."
They argued about whether there was a precedent for removing a new applicants' name if the declination was handled improperly by an election official. Goodell's legal brief cites two such rulings about timely filing, though Ms. Bargar insisted having her name removed by Judge John Ward and justices with the state appellate division was "unprecedented."
When weighing in on the honesty of each other's public image, both candidates cited leadership at local chapters of the Rotary Club. But each accusation was accompanied by claims that the opponent was violating the Rotary code of ethics during their campaign.
Bargar's closing statements echoed earlier remarks of her opponent: "I don't want to be a negative campaigner, but we are both wanting something very badly, and the public record is what we are running on - where we are on judgments and issues."
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