ST. BONAVENTURE, NY – The two candidates competing for New York State’s 57th Senate district seat took to the stage to debate key issues this week.                                                               

The candidates, Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello, a Republican, and Democrat Austin Morgan are seeking to succeed former Sen. Catharine Young, a Republican who resigned in March after nearly 15 years in the state Senate.

Borrello and Morgan responded to questions on local, state and national issues during the debate, which took place in the Bob Koop Broadcast Lab on the St. Bonaventure University campus.

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Discussion of bail reform, extending Route 219 into Salamanca and the New York's SAFE Act produced the most spirited exchanges between the two candidates.

On bail and discovery reform, Morgan said the reforms passed in the state Legislature were “largely a step forward” but not perfect.

“We went too far in a number of places,” Morgan said. “By taking away discretion from our judges, by taking away the safety and security of certain witnesses, we have put people in harm's way.”

Borrello countered aggressively, saying that Democrats have not done nearly enough to stop the bleeding.

“They took a machete and cut us wide open, then handed us a Band-Aid,” Borrello said. “So far they have done nothing. The governor should have called a special session, and they should repeal these horrific justice reforms.”

He continued, stating that his position as Chautauqua County Executive has given him a first-hand look into the lack of funding and training given to local law enforcement.

On extending Route 219 into Salamanca, Morgan, who spoke several times of the need for bipartisanship, believes that the only way to make progress is with a Democrat in the 57th district seat since Democrats hold a majority in the State Senate. He also called out Republican Assemblyman Joe Giglio for passing what he says is “about one bill a year while getting $110,000 of your tax payer dollars.”

Borrello countered by accusing the Democrats and Gov. Andrew Cuomo of ignoring Route 219 in a similar fashion to the I-90 Thruway, a topic that he said he has spoken out against in the past.

“It doesn’t matter who is in the majority,” Borrello said. “It really matters who is willing to take action and stand up and speak out.”

Morgan chalked up Borello’s statements as a political stunt.

On the SAFE Act, Borrello said he publicly opposed the law from the beginning and that it is a “horrible government overreach.” He also said Morgan has been unclear about his stance on the issue.

“My opponent likes to talk and waffle around on this subject, because he knows it’s an uncomfortable situation for him to have to be in,” Borrello said.

Morgan wasted no time punching back, calling out Borrello “for taking over $73,000 from the Republican leader down in Long Island that voted yes on the SAFE Act.”

He continued by saying that the SAFE Act needed to be repealed, calling for common sense gun laws.

In closing, Morgan spoke on his experiences working with the Senate and reiterated that he is a “fresh” candidate with no enemies, unlike his opponent.

“We need to put people over politics,” Morgan said. “It is time to invest in the future. It is time to elect a new generation of leadership, and vote for someone that is actually going to deliver in Albany. Someone who is spreading hope rather than hate.” 

Borrello focused on his tangible achievements as an entrepreneur and as an elected official.

“He can tell you what he might do, but I can show you what I have accomplished,” Borrello said.

By the end of the debate, patterns had emerged from both candidates's.comments

Borrello time and time again attacked the “machine” in Albany and what he labeled as government overreaches.

Morgan focused on his experience as a state Senate intern and being a member of the majority party. He said this would give him a seat at the table.

If elected, Morgan would become the youngest state senator in state history.

The one-hour debate was moderated by Dr. Richard Lee, an associate professor in the Jandoli School of Communication who serves as executive director of the Jandoli Institute and co-editor of TAPinto Greater Olean, and Cameron Hurst, a senior journalism student and TAPinto Greater Olean reporter.

TAPinto Greater Olean and the Jandoli Institute co-sponsored the debate, which was produced and livestreamed by SBU-TV.

Click here to view a video of the full debate.

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