With less than a month to go until Election Day, Republican Rep. Dan Donovan and Democratic challenger Max Rose squared off Tuesday night on NY1 in a live congressional debate at the College of Staten Island. The 11th congressional district, which covers all of Staten Island a portion of southern Brooklyn, has gained national attention as a swing seat in the battle for control of the House of Representatives.
Here are some key takeaways from the debate:
THE CANDIDATES' COMMITMENT TO THE DISTRICT TOOK CENTER STAGE
Donovan and Rose traded some of their most heated barbs when they questioned how committed their opponent was to the people of Staten Island and southern Brooklyn. Rose argued Donovan's large sum of campaign contributions from political action committees (PAC) made him beholden to corporations and lobbyists, not the people of the district.
Donovan, instead, argued Rose's PAC money, the majority of which has come from outside the district, shows he is bound to liberal dark money, not the voters.
Even more heated exchanges followed Donovan arguing Rose wasn't committed to the 11th congressional district because he had lived on Staten Island for the past two years only. He claimed that showed Rose moved to the borough because he wanted to run for Congress. Rose lambasted Donovan for that rhetoric, saying he couldn't have lived on Staten Island sooner because he was busy in the Army:
NEITHER CANDIDATE IS PARTICULARLY INTERESTED IN IMPEACHING TRUMP
How unaffiliated voters perceive the candidates' position on President Donald Trump may be a significant factor in the race. Democrats may have an enrollment advantage in the district, but voters unaffiliated with any party often swing elections, and there are more than 88,000 of them.
Aware of that, neither candidate slammed the New Yorker in the White House. Donovan said he supported Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016, but he also indicated he wouldn't vote for impeaching Trump, and argued that Mueller's investigation needed to come to an end soon.
Rose also said he wouldn't vote to impeach Trump, although he indicated he was content with letting the Russia probe proceed uninterrupted. Instead, he said he was more interested in "draining the swamp" and wanted to hold the president to his campaign promise of reform in Washington D.C.
ROSE ARGUES DONOVAN HAS FLIP-FLOPPED ON IMMIGRATION
In June, during his heated Republican primary with Michael Grimm, Donovan defended the Trump administration's policy of separated migrant children at the southern border. He denied that defense in the debate, but Rose pounced and argued the congressman's immigration stance changed only because he feared losing the primary to Grimm:
The incumbent denied his positions changed, even though he said in the debate that he does not support the child separation policy. He maintained that he has remained constant: The United States needs to have stronger borders while providing a pathway to citizenship.
Donovan also denied he flip-flopped on "sanctuary cities," saying he voted in June 2017 against penalizing cities like New York because that bill would have taken away federal grants for law enforcement and security, not because he believes in the purpose of "sanctuary cities." Rose, meanwhile, said he was in favor of them.