Volume 17 • Issue 23 | Oct. 29 - Nov. 4, 2004

Downtown Express photo by Wozzy Dias

U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, left, and his opponent, Peter Hort, had a debate Wednesday moderated by the school’s dean, William Michael Treanor.

Nadler and Hort square off in debate for Congress

By Chris Oliver

The gloves came off in the heated race for the 8th Congressional Congress seat in a debate Wednesday night.

Democratic incumbent Rep. Jerrold Nadler and Tribeca attorney Peter Hort, a Republican, sparred over issues that included the war in Iraq, Social Security, health care, education, abortion and gay rights at Fordham Law School’s McNally amphitheater.

Both are alumni of the school.

The district covers Lower Manhattan, the Upper West Side and several Brooklyn neighborhoods including Borough Park and Coney Island. Democratic incumbents like Nadler typically win overwhelmingly Downtown and the debate with Hort was unusual in that Democrats often ignore their opponents rather than give them a forum.

They squared off on the situation in Iraq and the nation’s security after the 9/11 attacks.

“I voted against the war in Iraq,” Nadler said. “I did not believe Iraq was a threat against this country. The C.I.A. said they were at least five to seven years away from getting a nuclear weapon. There were no weapons of mass destruction, there was no mention of Al Qaeda.”

Hort said he’s all for the war and wiping out terrorism.

“He voted seven times in seven years against intelligence funding. You are totally ineffective, don’t get anything done,” Hort said to the cheering audience.

“I want to offer ideas, not ideology,” said Hort, 33, glaring at the six-term congressmember. “Nadler is a classic politician, a great debater, but he has no record to stand on. You are part of the problem. The partisan bickering has got to stop.”

Nadler struck back by citing his record.

“I’m fighting for the progressive values for New York,” said Nadler.

“My record speaks for itself. I’m proud that I have achieved legislative successes,” said Nadler, 57. He said he supports redevelopment of the West Side, but not “to overwhelm the neighborhood.”

Hort criticized Nadler for accepting a $5,000 donation from Cablevision, owner of Madison Square Garden and a main opponent of the development of a Jets football stadium. The stadium is opposed by Nadler and many West Side residents, who may see the Cablevision donation as a plus.

“Despite a decade of a Republican-controlled House, now we seem to get more and more accomplished each year,” Nadler said.

He said he has fought for Homeland Security funding for New York and voted for putting 100,000 more police officers on the streets nationwide during the Clinton administration.

The responses drew cheers and jeers from the audience in the amphitheater, with each side getting an equal amount of positive boosts from the 300-plus spectators.

They battled over the future of Social Security.

“Mr. Nadler will tell you they’re trying to take Social Security benefits from the elderly. It couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Hort. “First of all we’ve got to stop raiding the Social Security trust fund. My opponent said he will not rule out using the Social Security surplus for other budgetary needs.”

Nadler snapped back by defending his voting on the Social Security Act.

Nadler said, “I’ve led the opposition to privatizing Social Security. Contrary to what my opponent and scaremongers like Alan Greenspan and other right-wingers, Social Security is not in danger. It is solvent at least until the year 2042.”

The questioning turned to health care.

“The system is broken,” Nadler said. “Prescription drug prices are growing four times faster than the rate of inflation. Medicare premiums have risen by more than 17 percent. I am proposing the earliest version of the patients’ bill of rights to help patients deal with H.M.O.’s and the right to sue the H.M.O. to get the right treatment you need.”

Hort lives with his wife, 3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son in Tribeca. His great-grandfather, grandfather and father all worked in printing businesses in Hudson Sq. and the West Village.

Nadler lives with his wife on the Upper West Side. Their son attends Columbia University.

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