Congressional and senatorial candidates voiced their platforms and faced questions and criticism in front of St. John’s students and local residents at a forum Monday night.
St. John’s has been hosting forums for candidates in the last few weeks, working with the Queens Chronicle and Times Ledger, to inform local residents and students about the issues and the candidates.
Those present included incumbent Congressmen Anthony Weiner and Gary Ackerman, as well as Senate hopeful Jay Townsend and several others. The forum was held in the Belson Moot Court Room at the law school. Candidates were each given five minutes to deliver their platforms.
Ackerman, a Democrat who has represented the New York 5th Congressional District, was asked by the secretary of College Republicans if he supported the controversial decision to build an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero.
After crowd members complained that he was avoiding answering the question in his response, he said that he supported the constitutional right to build the center.
“As long as you have the zoning rights to build it you should,” he said. “Of course I would caution doing so.”
Kyle Collins, a senior and president of the College Republicans, felt that Ackerman’s demeanor throughout his entire speech was lax and unbecoming.
“He had a very inflammatory way of addressing things,” Collins said after the forum.
Collins pointed out that Åckerman wouldn’t elaborate on his plan to impose a tax on marijuana. During the forum, he voiced that he supported the legalization of the drug.
The candidates in the forum were not the only attendants who received criticism for their actions during the evening.
Congressman Anthony Weiner, a Brooklyn native and representative of New York’s 9th Congressional District, compared his platform against his opponent’s, Robert Turner. Supporters wearing Turner t-shirts who were sitting in the back of the courtroom proceeded to voice their complaints loudly.
Weiner said he did not support the privatization of Social Security and Medicare and that his opponent was in favor, Turner supporters booed and shouted at Weiner, one woman yelling above the crowd that Weiner should “stick to the issues.”
The shouting continued before the spectators were asked to allow the Congressman to speak or they would be escorted out.
Alexander Marion, development director of the College Democrats of New York and the organization’s representative for the panel, commented on the outrage from Turner’s supporters.
“It was disrespectful whether you agree with him or not, he is an elected official,” Marion said.
Weiner was able to lighten the crowd when answering one of his final questions concerning his call for the removal of nearly 700 videos from YouTube that he claims promote terrorism.
“It certainly embarrassed my wife,” Weiner said, eliciting laughter across the room.
Republican Jay Townsend, who is running against current New York Senior Senator Charles Schumer, was not shy about sharing his criticism on the way things were being handled in Washington and how his opponent was not succeeding on Capitol Hill.
“The job of congress is to get things done,” Townsend said.
As well as criticizing Schumer for the policies and taxes he has implemented, Townsend promised to cut taxes to help reduce the cost of living in New York and bring jobs back to New York.
Outside of policy, Townsend criticized the incumbent senator for what he felt was poor campaigning. Townsend accused the senator of refusing “to do anything but the most controlled press conferences.”