A one-on-one race for the State Senate seat vacated by Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown may come down to who would be more effective in the short term occupying the 60th District seat, candidates Marc A. Coppola and Christopher L. Jacobs said in a Wednesday debate.
That district -- which includes Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Grand Island -- is overwhelmingly Democratic, but the state's elected majority is Republican, and the term of office would last only 10 months. It is an irony that Democrat Coppola and Republican Jacobs each tried to use to his advantage while answering dozens of questions before a crowd of 50 in the Niagara Falls Public Library.
The Buffalo residents will face off in a special election Feb. 28.
Coppola, the Common Council member representing the Delaware District, said he can work around party lines and has the legislative experience and the working-class background needed to represent and identify with residents.
"I have the ability to articulate an argument and will transcend party lines," he said. "My upbringing and background is better representative of the middle-income and working-class residents."
Coppola, who is also running on the Independence line, said he is an effective leader and voters should trust his record.
Jacobs, a Buffalo Board of Education member, tried to paint a different picture, saying the main reason he decided to run for the seat was good timing, since Republicans still control State Senate, as well as the executive branch of state government.
"I believe I'll be able to be an important player," he said. "I can be effective and [would be] uniquely positioned to make a difference."
Jacobs, whose name will also appear on the Conservative line, said his private-sector background as an attorney and the owner of Avalon Development, a real estate company, give him a more diverse background.
Both candidates vowed to fight against unfunded state mandates such as Medicaid, support local casino dollars going to the host city and not the county, and seek to bring a "strong" housing court to Niagara Falls.
They also agreed that the state should pay its full cost of Medicaid and that high-quality health care should be more readily available to all people, but differed on how they would achieve those goals. Coppola blamed state corruption and pandering to prescription drug companies for the rise in local health care costs. Jacobs said he would like local municipalities to be able to decide what services Medicaid recipients in their area receive, and not include elective items such as plastic surgery.
The candidates also showed differences of opinion on term limits, Jacobs promising to limit himself to eight years in office and Coppola saying he believes that voters should set term limits through the election process.
A debate rebroadcast can be seen at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on Adelphia Channel 21.