BC Executive Debate Covers Planning, Spending, and Drilling

By Erika Mahoney

October 26, 2012 Updated Oct 26, 2012 at 1:12 PM EDT

Town of Dickinson, NY (WBNG Binghamton) In their first publicly televised debate, the two candidates vying for Broome County's top post, incumbent Republican Debbie Preston and Democrat Tarik Abdelazim, spared over hydraulic fracturing, job creation and flood mitigation.

There were more agreements among the two than expected, especially as the hour-plus debate hosted by the League of Women Voters began.

But it didn't last long, as Abdelazim told the audience Preston failed to follow through on campaign promises she made last year. One such promise he says she broke regarded sales tax revenue distributions.

"You can say that you put together a budget that was responsible with no gimmicks," said Abdelazim. "Well, promising to return millions of dollars to our towns and villages, reneging on that promise and keeping the millions to pad your "re-election" budget... that's a pretty big gimmick."

"Well, first, I didn't flip flop and yes, I've always believed in the fifty-fifty split," said Preston. "And I said we would get back to the fifty-fifty split, but I never said in the first year."

She added that her budget isn't a "re-election" budget and that she worked hard to promise a zero percent tax increase to tax payers.

A question on the future of Broome County's Willow Point nursing home sparked a heated exchange, one that grew personal.

Incumbent Debbie Preston proposes privatizing the rehabilitation unit in the 2013 budget, saying there are problems that need to be fixed.

This is a move Abdelazim said would hurt one of the county's most vulnerable groups.

"Let me make it very clear, I will never close the doors on the Willow Point nursing home, and I will never have an interest in privatizing any part of that incredible facility," said Abdelazim. "When my opponent accuses me of scare mongering, it is scary, and I will speak up and always be an advocate for our seniors and our aging loved ones."

"I will never take that safety net away from the Broome County seniors, so say what you want, and I do get a little upset," said Preston. "If you want, take it out on me, but leave my employees out of it."

By the time closing arguments came around, emotions were running high. In what's becoming part of his political signature, Abdelazim shed a tear, in front of a packed auditorium.

And although those who showed up weren't necessarily undecided voters, most we spoke with said Debbie Preston's challenger Tarik Abdelazim came out on top.

"I felt that Mr. Abdelazim presented his arguments in a better way, he was better spoken, and was much more clear on his position," said Karen Tomic.

But others felt differently.

"I believe Debbie came across as a very genuine person and I feel her heart is into the work she's doing to better the county," said Garo Kachadourian. "And I believe she's only been in for a short term and I believe she should be given another four years to try to even do better and I feel she could."

The general election is Nov. 6.