BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Nick Langworthy and Max Della Pia, candidates for New York’s 23rd congressional district, debated live from the News 4 studio at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night. The event was moderated by News 4’s Chris Horvatits and Dave Greber.
A recording of the debate can be watched above. Below, read a recap on each topic the candidates discussed.
Langworthy: “We have a crisis going on in America right now, inflation is out of control.”
Langworthy said inflation is causing angst with family budgets, highlighting the cost of gas reaching $5 per gallon and the cost of groceries rising. He said if elected, he’d fight hard for American energy independence once again. He criticized the Biden administration for making it harder for organizations to drill.
Della Pia: “I consider energy independence to be a national security issue. We should not be going up to someone in Saudi Arabia or someone in Venezuela and asking to kiss their ring to lower prices.”
Della Pia praised the Inflation Reduction Act for providing opportunities for expanded drilling, which he said he favors. He added that easing away from fossil fuels “won’t be a switch,” that America needs to be energy independent until the day the country can move away from fossil fuels entirely. Della Pia also said that Republicans condemn Joe Biden as the enemy behind inflation, instead saying that Vladimir Putin should be the one being blamed.
Della Pia: “We need to put some stops on the economy.”
Della Pia said that raising discount rates too fast and too soon could be dangerous and could cause a recession.
In rebuttal to Langworthy, he added that the Inflation Reduction Act is a 10 year process and will take some time. “It’s an important thing that we do that and acknowledge that policy does not happen immediately,” he said.
Langworthy: “It’s a crystal clear answer: Yes, we’re in a recession.”
Langworthy said he knows it’s a recession because it feels like a recession. He said that while meeting with voters, they know it’s a recession. He said people probably have more economic angst right now than any time since the global economy collapse in 2008 and that inflation is pinching the middle class. “I don’t care what Joe Biden wants to define ‘recession’ as, it’s upon us,” he said.
He responded to Della Pia’s rebuttal by saying the way Della Pia talked about the Inflation Reduction Act was “absolute lunacy.”
Langworthy: “The fact that the Biden administration has tried to use the conflict and the attack of Russia on Ukraine as the excuse for high energy costs — it’s absolutely not true.”
Langworthy noted that gas had gone up 49% before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and said the Biden administration used the beaurocracy to “grind energy to a halt.” He said the country needs American energy out to market to create good-paying jobs and lower costs, adding that the country shouldn’t bow to Saudi Arabia and beg for more oil.
On rebuttal, Langworthy said the state needs to bring safe exploration of natural gas in the Southern Tier to bring good jobs to some of the poorest counties in the state.
Della Pia: “It’s supply and demand. If you look at the situation two years ago, obviously, people were hunkered down, they weren’t putting a lot of demands on the system.”
Della Pia cited lack of transportation during the pandemic for such a drastic increase in price on gas once demand increased. He said the country needs to look at its ability to increase oil production, saying drilling is important and that oil companies are putting profits over Americans.
He did, however, say he hesitates giving a go-ahead to fracking until frackers tell him what they’re putting into the ground. He added that he’d rather look into alternatives that are better for the environment, such as nuclear power, saying the country has used it successfully since 1954.
Langworthy: “Unfortunately, our country has gotten addicted to cheap stuff from China. We absolutely suffered greatly during the pandemic, when so many things that we needed to rely on to protect our people, our front line medical workers, were all manufactured in the Far East. We need to incentivize manufacturing.”
Della Pia: “It’s a vulnerability when we have to depend on the likes of China. We should be manufacturing things here and we’re doing just that with the CHIP act, because as you noticed, when we didn’t have sufficient computer chips, it created a bottleneck.”
Both candidates said tax credits would a good way to incentivize manufacturing in the U.S.
Della Pia: If you look at it, it’s very well targeted people not-of-means, but it is something that I would’ve preferred happen through legislation, not through this. … What this president did is he removed the cloud that was over these folks and their families.”
In rebuttal, Della Pia referenced the difference between the cost of tuition when Mitch McConnell went to school and now, saying it has become unaffordable and the U.S. needs to figure out how to make it affordable again.
Langworthy: “When you make a decision, when you sign for a loan, you are owning up to that. What we have here is a lot of people that want to get out of bad decisions. But what about the people that didn’t make those decisions.”
Della Pia: “We need to absolutely rethink and redo our immigration policy. My opponent will probably say we should enforce laws we have on the books right now. And I would say this: If we don’t fund the bureaucratic process of getting someone from a legitimate asylum claim on to a place that’s safe as a productive member of society, we are doing them a disservice and our economy disservice.”
Della Pia said that he would encourage VP Kamala Harris to go to the border if she thinks she needs more information. He said he’s not for open borders, that he wants people vetted, to pay taxes and social security, and wants them to be a productive member of this country.
Langworthy: “We need to finish the wall, first and foremost. We need to fund and give the resources necessary to our Customs and Border Patrol agents. … The southern border is a crisis. This isn’t about Mexico and the U.S., it’s about the U.S. and those that seek to harm the United States of America. We need to have a border to have a country.”
Langworthy also took aim at “countless amounts” of fentanyl coming across the border, saying it kills hundreds of Americans daily. He said policies of the Biden administration put a blinder on when it comes to issues at the southern border. “Kamala Harris has been to the North Korean border more than she’s been to our southern border, and she’s supposedly running the process here.”
2020 presidential election
Langworthy: “Joe Biden’s the President of the United States the last I checked. He won the Electoral College, he’s been serving for the last two years. … People have angst about the changes to a lot of our election laws, not necessarily in New York, but in other states, in the name of COVID-19.”
Langworthy said governors changing election laws created legitimate concerns, many of which have since been tightened up. He said he’s proud that New York has a bipartisan Board of Elections that polices itself, and New Yorkers can have faith that elections are fair and honest. He said Americans can’t look back on two years ago, they must solve the problems ahead. He suggested a step toward that would be national voter ID legislation.
Langworthy: “That was a very dark day in our nation’s history; it was something that should never have happened. But at the same time, we need to tighten up our election laws, we need to make sure things are being done in a constitutional fashion, and go to the courts if necessary.”
Langworthy criticized states such as Nevada and New Mexico for changing mail-in voting policies by executive order rather than legislative process.
In rebuttal, Langworthy claimed the creation of the January 6 Committee and Democrats “relitigating the past” is an attempt to change the narrative in America because they can’t win on their own record and the “failed policies of the Joe Biden administration.” He later acknowledged in a follow-up question that his understanding of the Constitution was in line with former vice president Mike Pence’s in that Pence couldn’t overturn the election.
Della Pia: “It’s not that difficult: Insurrections are bad.”
Della Pia said he believed Langworthy changed his opinion from calling Jan. 6 a ‘Democrat’s extravaganza’ and was projecting.
In rebuttal, Della Pia said Americans need to know exactly what happened on Jan. 6, why it happened, and work together as a country to prevent a similar event from happening again. He criticized Langworthy for supporting former president Donald Trump, saying he feels Langworthy asked for Trump’s endorsement and acknowledged Langworthy’s involvement in Trump’s presidential transition team.
In a follow-up question, Della Pia said objecting to election results can be appropriate, but when 60+ court cases are thrown out, objections not based on fact or evidence are a sham.
Della Pia: “We are holding together strong NATO alliance that has a lot to lose if the Ukraine goes down.”
Della Pia paraphrased George Santayana, saying those who fail to remember past are condemned to repeat it, comparing Russia’s attempt to take over Ukraine to Nazi Germany’s takeover of Poland. “This isn’t going to stop with this,” he said. He then criticized the Republican Party of not condemning Putin’s actions.
In rebuttal, he said Congress needs to be more involved and vocal in decisions of whether it is appropriate to send forces into other countries.
Langworthy: “Here’s your condemnation: Putin is a murderer and he’s a madman, and we cannot allow the Ukraine to be taken over, and we need to continue to support our NATO alliance, support Ukraine in these efforts.”
Langworthy said that Della Pia’s idea that Republicans support Russia is nonsense. He said that he isn’t prepared to say the U.S. should offer ground troops to Ukraine, but said the country should continue to support funding and strengthen the NATO alliance.
Langworthy: “Family farms, unfortunately, in many cases are a thing of past, as they’ve had to sell to larger farmers. We need to support our Northeastern dairy and safeguard their needs greatly.”
Della Pia: “The Farm Bill, in the 30s, when it started, 70% of the money went to small farms and 30% to large agro business. And now it’s the opposite, and I’m concerned about family farms going under.”
Langworthy: “We had a lot of people in both parties who towed the line for Andrew Cuomo — he had co-opted many, even in the Republican Party. … I’m very proud of the work we’ve done ending this tenure. Because I didn’t call for his resignation, I called for his impeachment.”
Della Pia: “Certainly, if someone does not have a violent past, does not have a record, is not a flight risk, and is someone who is not presenting a risk to the community, we shouldn’t force him or her to stay in jail so that they lose their job before they’re even convicted.”
Langworthy: “The elimination of cash bail, the discovery reform, everything that’s happened to our criminal justice system has absolutely made every New Yorker less safe. … In the name of social justice, this elimination of cash bail that people like my opponent are celebrating, they live in this fairy tale world that people are stuck in jail because they stole a loaf of bread. It’s a joke.”
The candidates debated on who was at fault in the the recent release of Adam Bennefield, who is accused of killing his estranged wife after being let out of custody. Della Pia said the judge in the case dropped the ball, while Langworthy said the judge had their hands tied. Both candidates agreed, however, that Bennefield should not have been released following the alleged assault against his wife, Keaira Hudson.
Della Pia: “These people who have just been in prison for having some marijuana on them should not have a felony conviction that they can’t get a job, that they can’t be restored to their community. And if its legal for people to sell it commercially, I think it’s time to look at their records, and if appropriate, remove that part of their record so that they can re-enter their communities and be productive members of our society.”
Langworthy: “Right now, we’re struggling with a lot of states having a lot of different policies, and some states having very unclear policies like New York does. … We need to have a bipartisan solution towards how to manage the cannabis marketplace going forward. The decriminalization seems to be well on its way.
Langworthy: “I am running to bring a stable conservative voice to the people of Western New York to represent them in congress in the most Republican district in the State of New York, in the Northeastern United States. We have had a revolving door of members of Congress that have left for one reason or another, sometimes in shameful fashion. I want to end that and bring this district back to the esteemed place that it was.”
Della Pia: “I spent 32 years serving this country as an Air Force officer. I retired as a full colonel and I had hundreds of people who I led. My philosophy for leadership has never been, ‘You’re going to do this because I’m the colonel, it is team-building, mutual respect and inspiring people to join something greater than themselves and do something good for their country.”
Nick Langworthy (Republican)
New York State GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy won his spot in the race by defeating Carl Paladino in the Republican primary at the end of August.
The two candidates vied for the spot following the withdrawal of Rep. Chris Jacobs (NY-27) from the race. Jacobs announced he would not run after backlash from members of the Republican party to his comments against the sale of AR-15s.
Upon agreeing to the debate last month, Langworthy released the following statement:
“I want to earn the right to represent the people of the 23rd congressional district and I believe part of earning that right means going before the voters in a debate. The residents and businesses of Western New York and the Southern Tier are looking for leaders with solutions to our problems. I look forward to answering questions for the voters and presenting my vision to get America back on the right track.”
Max Della Pia (Democrat)
Max Della Pia, the Tioga County Democratic Committee chairman, is running as the Democratic candidate after Republican Joe Sempolinski won the special election in August to finish former representative Tom Reed’s term in Congress.
After he agreed to the debate, Della Pia also released a statement:
“I think it’s important that candidates make themselves available to voters before election day so they know where we stand and can evaluate for themselves who can best serve their interests. Given there’s no platform available on his website, I look forward to finally learning where Nicholas stands on the issues.”
Where is NY-23?
New York’s newly redrawn 23rd district is made up of eastern and southern Erie County, as well as New York’s Southern Tier from Lake Erie to Elmira, including Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany, Steuben, Schuyler and Chemung counties.
When is Election Day?
Election Day is on Nov. 8. Early voting will take place from Oct. 29 through Nov. 6.
Adam Duke is a digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of his work here.