The candidates for the District 63 House seat from East Providence faced off Monday evening, Oct. 15, in a debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters RI. A few barbs were exchanged.
The candidates, Democrat Katherine Kazarian and Independent David Sullivan, were first on the program. They shared a table in front of about 100 voters at the Cape Verdean Progressive Center.
The General Assembly candidates got the same six questions, although the time they had to respond differed depending on if they answered first or responded and if they chose to use a "wild card" to get more time to respond. Each candidate made opening and closing statements.
Kazarian, who survived a four-way Democratic primary in September, got the nod to open first. The East Providence native repeated that she is running because she believes she has "a duty to give back."
Sullivan is running because "We can't continue with the current leadership. I am in direct opposition to the way things are run." He cited the Studio 38 debacle as one example. "I have life experiences my opponent lacks," he added.
Their first question asked them about their plans for the economy.
"We need to steer away from this one-company belief," said Kazarian. All companies have a role to play and should benefit from state aid.
More specifically, she said, "I favor restoring the historic tax credit. It would help to put construction workers back to work."
Sullivan said he would cut the sales tax in half. He cited New Hampshire, which doesn't have a sales tax, and a 5 percent unemployment rate -- about half of Rhode Island.
"I don't see how you can possibly cut it in half," Kazarian snapped back.
What about a state legislator's role in education? Particularly binding arbitration, combing the two boards of governors for education, consolidation of purchasing, and vouchers for education?
"That's a lot to address at once," Sullivan said, but anything that would make life easier and more affordable for people he would support.
"Taxpayers are tapped out," he said. "We need to streamline if it's affordable. I do support binding arbitration."
Kazarian said no one can afford higher taxes. She supports consolidation of purchasing and streamlining government. Investing in education is a key, she said.
On binding arbitration, she said: "I am leaning toward a no."
Are they pro-choice or pro-life?
Kazarian said that a woman has a right to choose. She supports Roe vs. Wade.
Sullivan said it is a federal issue, although he is "pro-life. Choice should be made before conception."
What would they do with the RI Economic Development Corporation?
"Dissolve it," said Sullivan. "Put together a voluntary panel to teach the General Assembly how business works. I don't think they know."
"I am not an expert," said Kazarian, "but I certainly wouldn't support giving $75 million to one company."
How about same-sex marriage and voter IDs? Yes or no?
Kazarian said she supports the former but not the latter. Sullivan said he supports civil unions and voter ID "to have credible elections."
What will be the first bill you introduce after you are elected?
"Term limits for legislators," said Sullivan. "Public servic is not a career. No more than three two-year terms."
Restoring the historic tax credit, said Kazarian.
In her closing, Kazarian said: "We need to plan for a sustainable future by concentrating on job creation. A balance is needed to make East Providence attractive to business."
Sullivan closed by saying he would push for "term limits, BCI checks, cutting taxes to attract employers, and an audit of social services."
"Gordon Fox is sending her money," he jabbed at Kazarian in his final remark, a reference to the Speaker of the State House.
The debate was being recorded for broadcast this weekend, Oct. 20 and 21, at 1 and 8 pm on Cox channel 17 and Verizon channel 25 or 24. Check your listing.