Inflation, abortion among issues at center of heated NY-19 race

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As we close in on Election Day, NewsChannel 13 is keeping a close eye on the big races in the region, including the election between Republican Marc Molinaro and Democrat Josh Riley to represent New York’s newly-drawn 19th District in Congress.

In recent weeks, political advertisements have become heated on both sides, with each candidate telling NewsChannel 13 they felt dissatisfied with the tenor of the ads.

NewsChannel 13 offered both candidates the opportunity to come to the station for an interview, or have a crew meet them on the trail. Stella Porter asked each candidate the same set of questions. Each interview began by asking what promises the candidates would make to voters in the Capital Region.

Democrat Josh Riley grew up in Endicott, making his way to Washington, working as counsel to Sen. Al Franken on the Senate Judiciary Committee — before practicing at a private law firm. He lives in Ithaca with his family.

“Here in the Capital Region, making sure we’re protecting the Hudson River, making sure people have access to affordable housing. We are in the midst of a housing crisis. So it’s true that each community has its own needs and own unique challenges,” Riley said of the large new district.

Republican candidate Marc Molinaro serves as Dutchess County Executive. He’s no stranger to state elections. He served in the assembly and ran for governor against Andrew Cuomo in 2018, often pointing to his track record as a representative in the decades since he was first elected to office at 18 years old.

Now he’s looking to represent the newly re-drawn 11-county district.

“It is a beautiful, beautiful district that takes on some of the most amazing parts of New York. It’s also a part of New York that knows what it’s like to have politicians turn their back on it, businesses to leave and families flee because of high taxes, high cost of living, lack of job opportunities,” he said.

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He also said tackling inflation would be a top priority in Congress.

“Less reckless spending, holding the line on taxes, driving down cost and it starts with holding Washington accountable, and by the way, bringing the experience I’ve had of making government smaller and less expensive,” Molinaro said.

On inflation, Riley said, “I think that the inflation that we are seeing today is a direct consequence of terrible policies by both Democrats and Republicans that closed down our plants, shipped our jobs overseas, and ceded our supply chains to Asia.”

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In August, Molinaro lost the special election to temporarily fill the seat left by Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado. Democrat Pat Ryan’s victory in the district was seen by some as a sign of what could come.

“I’m not a pundit; I don’t pretend to be one. I get asked often, ‘What happened in the special election?’ I got less votes than the other guy,” Molinaro said. “Midterm elections, November 8, will be a question for residents, for voters—do you feel you are better off today than when Joe Biden took office?”

Riley, meanwhile, said the special election foreshadowed a favorable outcome for him on Nov. 8.

“Pat Ryan’s win over Marc Molinaro, who I’m now running against, confirmed for me that the message we have been offering in this campaign from the very beginning is a winning message,” he said.

NewsChannel 13 also asked the candidates about abortion rights. Some say the midterms could turn on the decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

Both candidates said they support a woman’s right to choose, but differ on a critical point.

Riley is framing himself as the only candidate who has done work at the national level to support abortion rights. He’s made it a central issue of his campaign.

“I think there’s a real stark contrast here between my opponent and me with respect to women’s reproductive freedoms and women’s rights,” Riley said.

Molinaro says he’ll push for better healthcare for pregnant women and babies, to better support women’s choices.

“I want women all across America and this district to know that I support you no matter what decision and choice you make,” Molinaro said.

The key difference in the candidates’ view appears to be whether Congress can and should make national laws on abortions and abortion access.

“In New York, the right to access and abortion will remain. And I will not support, and do not believe, Congress can impose a ban on states like New York,” Molinaro said.

“Let’s say in Congress, a Republican majority potentially supports some kind of nationwide ban. Are you willing to say that you wouldn’t support that?” asked NewsChannel 13’s Stella Porter.

“I do not and will not support a national ban. I don’t believe Congress has the ability to impose such a ban,” Molinaro said.

Riley disagreed with that view.

“My opponent has been asked about this, and his position has been that Congress can’t act on this issue at all, and that is terribly wrong and misinformed. The Dobbs decision says that Congress can act and I believe congress should,” he said, saying his first action in Congress would be to sponsor the Women’s Health Protection Act to codify Roe vs. Wade.

For more on the candidates’ views, watch the videos of Stella Porter’s interviews.