BronxNet hosts debate for 13th congressional district Democratic primary

The debate moderator Gary Axelbank (c) with the Congressional candidates who took part in the forum.
Community News Group / Patrick Rocchio

BronxNet held a debate for the upcoming 13th Congressional District primary.

It will be the only face-to-face in the Bronx for the district that also includes Manhattan.

The taping, which featured six of the candidates for the Tuesday, June 28 Democratic primary to replace retiring Congressman Charles Rangel, was held at BronxNet’s studios at Lehman College on Friday, June 17.

The Bronx Times and the League of Women Voters were two of the forum’s sponsors.

BronxTalk host Gary Axelbank moderated the discussion, posing questions formulated by the borough’s press to candidates Suzan Johnson Cook, former U.S. ambassador; Michael Gallagher; former Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV; Sam Sloan; Clyde Williams, former Democratic National Committee political director and Assemblyman Keith Wright.

Senator Adriano Espaillat and Assemblyman Guillermo Linares couldn’t participant because they were in Albany voting on end-of-session bills.

Michael Max Knobbe, BronxNet executive director said that the discussion was held to benefit the voters of the 13th Congressional District, which encompasses 150,000 borough voters in the northwestern part of the borough.

Bronx portion of the district includes Van Cortlandt Village, Bedford Park, Kingsbridge, University Heights, Norwood and Fordham.

“The issues that were brought up were important to raise civic awareness,” said Knobbe. “It is about fostering informed constituencies, sharing information and having the candidates have a voice on the network of the people of the Bronx.”

The executive director said he believes the more opportunities for people to get access to information about elections, the more informed their decisions are.

Among the topics covered during the hour-long debate, including questions developed by Axelbank and producer Yeila Lluberes, were affordable housing, Rangel’s legacy, immigration, how to encourage development without bringing about gentrification, Republican control of the House of Representatives and military policy.

The debate at BronxNet featured fewer candidates than in a previous AARP-sponsored debate in Manhattan, which may be a good feature of the BronxNet forum, said Laura Altschuler of the League of Women Voters.

“There was the give and take between the candidates, and you learned more about the candidates that way,” she said.

The lone Republican did not get invited to the debate because he does not have a primary.

Axelbank said that he was happy to have the help of the borough’s news organizations and the League of Women Voters.

While he makes all final decisions himself, their input was appreciated.

“Especially tonight where there were a lot of issues, (Altschuler) and the league’s expertise was incredibly valuable,” said Axelbank.

“Over the 21 years of that I have been doing this…having professional and experienced people who can advise and support, not only helps me and the station, but makes the democratic process in the Bronx much stronger.”

The program will air on BronxNet prior to the primary frequently, and can also be seen on bronxnet.org.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.
The students who were part of the BronxNet crew that helped produce the debate learned a lot. On the far left is BronxNet executive director Michael Max Knobbe and debate moderator Gary Axelbank is in the center.
Photo courtesy of Alexander Krstevski at BronxNet

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