WABC-TV on Friday hosted the first televised debate for New York's 11th Congressional District, which is one of the most hotly contested races in the United States.
Eyewitness News anchor Diana Williams moderated the debate between incumbent Republican Congressman Michael Grimm and Democratic challenger Domenic Recchia at the WABC-TV studios for a special edition "Up Close with Diana Williams."
The 30-minute debate will air commercial free on Channel 7 on Sunday, October 19 at 11 a.m., when "Up Close with Diana Williams" normally airs.
The battleground of New York's 11th Congressional District covers Staten Island and portions of Brooklyn, including Bay Ridge. Polls show a tight race between the incumbent Congressman, who was recently indicted, and his challenger, a former New York City Council Member.
The debate was often heated at times, with both candidates tossing barbs at each other about the government's handling of the Ebola virus, Grimm's political record and indictment and the region's recovery from Superstorm Sandy.
There were also numerous accusations of lying on both sides, as well as claims of incompetence and finger pointing. At one point, Diana Williams had to step in to prevent the debate from turning into a full-on shouting match.
Grimm said he supports a restriction on travel in the wake of three cases of Ebola being diagnosed in the US, with no recreational travel allowed. If there is another case, he said, he would support a ban on all travel.
"No one should be panicking what so ever," Grimm said. "But I do have concerns."
He criticized President Obama and CDC chief Dr. Thomas Frieden for what he called a lack of preparedness, while Recchia countered that any deficiencies have been compensated for by policy and procedural changes.
When it came to discussing Grimm's pending trial and why voters should cast their ballots in his favor, Grimm cited the justice system being built on the presumption of innocence and touted his record, though he said he would resign if convicted.
"I believe I am entitled to my day in court, just like anyone else," he said. "I move mountains for my constituents."
Recchia countered that Grimm could not be trusted to accomplish anything while facing the distraction of a trial.
"He's ineffective right now," he said. "The leaders in his party want nothing to do with him...He can't get anything done."
After discussing community relations with police, a possible fare on the Staten Island Ferry, bike and pedestrian lanes on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and other issues, both candidates delivered their closing remarks to potential voters.
Recchia again mentioned the indictment, as well as Grimm's recorded threat to throw a reporter off a balcony.
"I am running for Congress because this district has not been represented by someone the people can be proud of," Recchia said. "We deserve better, and I'm that person...I have three daughters, I'm married to a public school teacher, I know what families are going through."
Grimm countered by touting his work in the military and as a FBI special agent before serving in Congress, as well as his relationship with those who reside in the district.
"People in my district, they know me, they know that I'm accessible, they know I'm there when they need me, they also know my heart and who I am as a person," he said. "At the end of the day, I think if you look at my results from day one...I'm very proud of my record, and I'm very proud of the people I represent."
To hear the rest of what each candidate had to say, tune in to the full debate on Sunday, October 19, at 11 a.m. Again, the full 30-minute debate will air commercial free when "Up Close with Diana Williams" normally airs.
Rep. Michael Grimm, Domenic Recchia square off in WABC-TV debate