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NAPLES, HIGGINS ADDRESS CAMPAIGN ADS DURING DEBATE

Congressional candidates Nancy A. Naples and Brian M. Higgins were asked during their debate Monday evening whether they are embarrassed by political commercials that have been aired in their name during this bitter campaign.

Both said no and blamed the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reforms for dirty campaign messages written by "outside groups."

They were referring to groups including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee, which have created their own ads for the local campaign.

"McCain-Feingold has let outside groups write commercials that our campaign has no control over," said Naples, the Republican county comptroller.

She said the law "has caused havoc" because "candidates have no control over what's put on the air."

"I'm not embarrassed -- my (own) ads were factual," Naples added. "None of my campaign ads have been pulled. We did clarify one of them . . ."

Higgins, the Democratic assemblyman and former Common Council member, agreed that "the need for real campaign-finance reform" has been highlighted by the negative campaign for the 27th District seat being vacated by Rep. Jack F. Quinn, R-Hamburg.

"When you are under attack, you have to attack back and answer the charges," Higgins said. "And it goes into a spiral . . ."

Higgins also said the ads reveal "too much money and too many outside influences" in a national political battle "to put this seat in one column or the other."

During the hourlong debate before an audience of about 100 in the WNED-TV studio on Lower Terrace Street, Naples was asked about an earlier statement that she has been promised a seat on the House Transportation Committee if she is elected to Congress.

"I'd make sure all the money earmarked for Western New York comes to us," Naples responded, without elaborating on the promise made to her. "We have $53 million on the table to complete the extension of Route 219, a very important project for our region." "I don't know what kind of deal was cut with the House Republican leaders before the election for a coveted seat on that committee," Higgins shot back. "If elected I would make sure that (transportation money) is in the budget for Western New York."

Higgins was asked whether he is a part of the "dysfunctional" State Legislature, which has been under attack in recent months for the consolidation of power in the hands of the Senate and Assembly leadership.

"Albany is dysfunctional," Higgins replied. "I can't defend Albany. I've tried to find a high level of effectiveness in my representation."

"Albany is killing this county," said Naples. "Mr. Higgins has supported increases in the state-mandated programs for counties to pay for."

Asked again about his role in Albany, Higgins said he was one of 64 legislators who tried to buck the leadership but failed.

"Even though the movement was not going to succeed," he said, "I was with it to the end."

"Yes, he attempted this coup," Naples said, "but when it didn't work he went right back in lockstep with the speaker (Sheldon Silver)."

e-mail: acardinale@buffnews.com

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