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GOP Candidates For Senate Debate On NY1

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The two Republicans looking to unseat Senator Charles Schumer squared off Monday night in the first in a series of 2010 election debates on NY1.

Former CIA officer Gary Berntsen went head to head with businessman Jay Townsend at Union College in Schenectady.

Both faced tough questions from the panel about their positions on Afghanistan, gay marriage, the recent additions to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the proposed mosque near the World Trade Center site.

"I oppose this mosque for one simple reason. I think it is offensive to the families of the victims who died in that tragedy. I think it is insensitive. I have suggested to the Imam that he put it elsewhere and I hope he will see fit to do so," Townsend said.

"I oppose construction of that mosque. I oppose construction of that mosque because I've spent 20 years fighting Islamic fundamentalists and terrorists. I know what they do. That mosque, at that location will be a magnet for militants," Berntsen said.

When asked if they would support an Arizona-like bill cracking down on undocumented immigrants in New York, both men said they would stand behind it. The two also voiced their support over a plan to drill for natural gas in the state's southern tier using a controversial method known as "fracking."

The seemingly mutual agreements even extended to the issue of global warming.

"Those that have proposed global warming over the last few years have conducted an enormous charade," Berntsen said.

"I wish I could believe them. But I can't believe anything that they say anymore, and I'm convinced that much of what they were trying to do was a hoax," Townsend said.

On a personal level, Townsend, a political consultant, admitted he had been arrested a decade ago after a verbal altercation. He said he was acquitted.

Berntsen enters next month's primary with the backing of the state's Republican party, while Townsend has the Conservative party nod. Typically, both need the other to win statewide.

On Tuesday, NY1 will carry a debate between the Republicans looking to challenge Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Former Westchester Congressman Joe DioGuardi, former Treasury Department official David Malpass, and Long Island attorney Bruce Blakeman will debate at Union College.

Both debates will start at 7 p.m., followed by a wrap-up show at 8 p.m.

Meanwhile, it's still not known whether or not the two men vying for the GOP nomination for governor will debate

Former Congressman Rick Lazio has yet to commit to the debate. It's scheduled for next Monday and is being sponsored by NY1 and our sister stations upstate, YNN.

When asked about whether he was planning to attend last week, Lazio deferred to his campaign staff in charge of scheduling.

NY1 called his office today for an update, but have not heard back.

Buffalo Businessman Carl Paladino has agreed to show up, and is accusing Lazio of "running scared." ClientIP:,, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP