State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-North Hills) called her Republican opponent, Jack Martins, an “extremist” because of his party affiliation during a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters Port Washington-Manhasset branch on Thursday.
Kaplan said those who run on the same line as Gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Congressional 3rd District candidate George Santos should be classified as an extremist.
Martins, who is running on the Republican and Conservative lines, said the classification of calling someone an extremist is a personal attack on an individual.
“How are you supposed to have a conversation with somebody when they’re throwing rocks that way,” Martins said.
Kaplan bashed “extremist Republican” officials for not prioritizing public safety by not advocating for common-sense gun safety laws and allowing crime to continue to rise throughout Long Island.
The incumbent also said she fully supports funding the police and touted the federal dollars she has provided for local police departments throughout the district since she was elected in 2019.
“We have given judges more discretion to keep our communities safe,” Kaplan said. “All along extremist Republicans, all they want to do is roll back our sensible, safe fun laws to bring back more dangerous crimes in our communities.”
Martins said he supported the repeal of the state’s cashless bail reform laws in response to the rise in crimes. He said that judges are still not given enough discretion in various cases and it has made communities he has lived in less safe than ever before.
“We need to support law enforcement and repeal cashless bail,” Martins said. “We need to give judges the authority that they have, the discretion that they need to put dangerous criminals behind bars once and for all.”
A rise in crime and high taxes, Martins said, are some of the biggest factors for individuals leaving New York. He also attributed the trend to a lack of parental discretion and more statewide mandates.
“The way that our parents have an absolute right to make decisions for their children has to be protected, whether at home or at school,” Martins said. “We have to get back to the fundamentals.”
Kaplan said the coronavirus pandemic has put a strain on the entire nation and spoke on her work to put an average of $1,400 into the taxpayers’ hands as a result of a rebate this year. She said she will continue to fight for local merchants and the middle class if re-elected.
“I’ve been a big advocate for families and businesses here in New York and I will continue to be that advocate moving forward,” Kaplan said.
Prioritizing the mental health and well-being of children throughout the district, Kaplan said, is imperative. Additional funding was added to the state’s budget so that schools can hire more social workers and provide children with the attention they deserve, she said.
“Dealing with mental health is something that’s very important to all of us, especially our children,” Kaplan said. “We want to make sure that we do everything in our power to give them the tools and the resources for them not only to succeed but to thrive.”
Martins acknowledged the hardships the coronavirus pandemic had on all individuals, but referred back to giving parents discretion over what is best for their children.
Finding consistency with policies so that New York is prepared for anything like the pandemic to happen again, is imperative to combat mental health issues.
“We can’t allow our schools and our institutions to take the place of our families,” Martins said. “Let’s keep families and parents involved.”
Martins called his 2011 vote against marriage equality in New York “a mistake,” saying that he was in favor of civil unions. He described marriage equality as a “fundamental human right” on Thursday.
“When two people love each other and want to come together as a family unit, they have the ability to do that,” he said.
Kaplan expressed her strong support for same-sex marriages and criticized Martins for “doubling down” on his prior vote. The Dobbs decision, she said, could have ripple effects that impact marriage equality throughout the nation.
“At a time like this, we can’t trust an anti-choice and anti-marriage equality representative anywhere close to Albany,” Kaplan said. “We need a proven leader like me that will fight for your rights.”
Kaplan said she supports a ban on outside income for elected officials and that she has pending legislation on the matter she will try to move forward on next year. Constituents deserve an elected official that is fully dedicated to delivering the best results for their districts.
“In order to do this job well, you have to be out with your constituents on weekends on weeknights, or during the day,” she said. “This is not only a full-time job, it takes much longer and I believe we owe it to our residents to do the best job possible.”
Martins, a local attorney, said he would continue to work at his practice if elected, and that his other profession did not previously interfere with representing the 7th Senate District. If the state were to implement a ban on outside employment, Martins said, he would have to decide what makes sense for him and his family.
“I am very much aware of the conflicts and pitfalls that come up, frankly, for those who do have outside employment and those who don’t have outside employment,” Martins said. “So as of right now, I will continue to practice law.”
Martins previously served as Mineola’s mayor from 2003-2010. In 2008, he ran an unsuccessful congressional campaign against former U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy before defeating incumbent 7th District Senator and Democrat Craig Johnson in 2010.
After another failed attempt to get into Congress in 2016, losing to U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), Martins shifted his focus to becoming Nassau County’s new county executive, following former County Executive Edward Mangano being indicted on federal corruption charges.
Martins ultimately lost that race to Democrat Laura Curran, who served as county executive before being defeated by Republican Bruce Blakeman this past fall.
Kaplan was elected to serve the Town of North Hempstead’s 4th District as a councilwoman in 2011. In 2016, she sought election to the House of Representatives but lost to Suozzi in the Democratic primary.
She has served in the Senate since 2019 when she defeated Republican incumbent Elaine Philips. Kaplan also won re-election in 2020 against former Port Washington Police Commissioner Dave Franklin.
The district includes Floral Park, New Hyde Park, Williston Park, Mineola, Garden City Park, North Hills, Albertson, Old Westbury, East Hills, Roslyn, Roslyn Harbor, Roslyn Estates, Albertson, Searingtown, Lake Success, Manhasset, Munsey Park, Plandome, Plandome Heights, Plandome Manor, and the Great Neck and Port Washington peninsulas.