Liberal Column

Deacon, Katko debate demands attention for right reasons

/ The Daily Orange

With the seemingly endless hype of the presidential debates, it is important to remember the effect local politics can have on both our own community and the country as a whole. Colleen Deacon and Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) will meet this week for their second of three debates during their campaigns for the House of Representatives seat for New York’s 24th congressional district.

These debates are make-or-break for Deacon, as increasing public recognition of her campaign is something she has struggled with throughout the election. Katko simply needs to appear knowledgeable and connected to the district, as his incumbency represents a significant advantage, especially in smaller races such as this one, where alternative candidates are less likely to be known.

In the first debate, Deacon and Katko discussed issues including infrastructure spending, the Islamic State group and campaign finance reform. While neither candidate is above the usual political spin, the TV studio setup of the debate forced them to respond directly to the questions, rather than resort to one-liners about one another. This straightforward question-and-answer format should continue in the final two debates.

Both candidates frequently stumbled over their words in the first debate and struggled to appear as polished on camera as the professional politicians we are used to seeing. But their imperfect nature lends an authenticity that can improve both candidates’ credentials as a voice for central New York.

Barring significant blunders by either Deacon or Katko, it is unlikely these debates will have any overwhelming impact on the election. But they do offer a chance for both candidates to increase their visibility with voters and to explain their platform and policies in a more direct manner than political ads.

Yes, these debates aren’t as exciting as their presidential counterparts. There will be no “Saturday Night Live” spoof of a Deacon-Katko debate, no Twitter live-stream or real-time fact checking. Voters are not going to tune in expecting a knock-down-drag-out like the presidential debates, and there is little in the way of media “hype.” But that doesn’t discount the debates’ value and importance.

Voters should watch these debates not because they’re entertaining, but because they offer substantive exchanges between two candidates in our important moderate district. How voters choose on Nov. 8 should be based on the policies of these two candidates and which one voters feel can more effectively govern. These debates offer the perfect opportunity to learn just that.

Cole Jermyn is a sophomore environmental resource engineering major at SUNY-ESF. He can be reached at cdjermyn@syr.edu and followed on Twitter @Cjermyn8.

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