WATERTOWN — Mayoral candidate Jeffrey M. Smith went on the attack during Tuesday night’s debate, questioning the experience of opponent Allison I. Crossman.
Mr. Smith, a former city councilman, wanted to know why the political newcomer didn’t start going to council meetings until about a month ago.
That’s where she could learn about issues and ideas, he told her.
“I’m sure you’re well aware that there’s live streaming by Steve Weed productions because I know you are sitting in camera’s view to let people to know you’re there,” she fired back, getting a laugh from the audience.
Meanwhile, Councilman Cody J. Horbacz managed to stay out of much of the fray while the two other mayoral hopefuls fought it out. Broadcast live on WATN 1240 AM, Mr. Smith kept the pressure on, asking Mrs. Crossman if she cared about community involvement when she didn’t seem to be around until she announced she was running for mayor.
“This is a prime example of why people are sick of politicians,” she said.
During the two-hour Community Broadcasters debate, Mrs. Crossman said she helped bring businesses to downtown and create an atmosphere of growth when she was vice president of Washington Properties, a major local real estate firm.
She also noted that she and her husband, Joseph, own a business, Crossman Towing.
In urging voters to support him, Mr. Smith said he served on City Council for 12 years, was on the county board for a couple of years and was a legislative aide in state government.
He’s formed relationships as a businessman and while serving in political office, he told the audience.
“Unlike some of my opponents, I’m not going to tell businesses not to go to a community in the north country or to avoid a community in the north country,” Mr. Smith said.
Mr. Smith was referring to a controversy involving Mrs. Crossman that surfaced in recent days about a zoning issue when she purchased a piece of property in the town of LeRay a few years ago. In a Facebook posting over the weekend, she urged people to avoid doing business in LeRay, upsetting town officials in the process.
In defending herself, Mrs. Crossman said she would always urge businesses to only move into Watertown and would never want them to go to other communities if she was elected mayor.
She would make sure her administration was transparent and that her lack of political experience is her best asset, she said. She’s not a typical politician who would promise things and then not deliver, she said.
While his two opponents bickered with each other, Councilman Horbacz talked about his experience on the council and how he’s fought for issues he believed in ever since he ran for office for the first time in 2013.
“I have a question for the both of you, especially you because you were involved,” he told Mr. Smith, who left office in 2013. “Where have you been for the past six years? I’ve been doing the work.”
The councilman has worked on supporting local businesses, improving neighborhoods, expanding recreation programs for all and helping downtown grow, he said.
While in office, he said he’s made difficult decisions. He defended a controversial vote to appeal a case involving the lengthy contract dispute with the firefighters’s union.
He went along with appealing it to the state’s highest course because he knew the nine justices would not take the case.
“I knew we would lose,” he said, “And it would be done and the case closed.”
A vote to use $2.9 million to help pay for the new pool at Thompson Park might cost him the election, he acknowledged. It was a campaign promise, though.
“I ran on it and I got it done,” he said.
It also showed his leadership skills and his ability to get consensus, the councilman said, because he was able to get two of his colleagues to take the risk to vote on it, as well.
He supported a new law that will keep tabs on vacant properties, making sure their owners notify the city about what they plan to do with them
The law will “make sure they’re accountable,” he said.
The three mayoral candidates will face off one last time during a candidates’ forum that will be aired next week on WWNY TV, Channel 7.
Voters go to the polls on Nov. 5.