Slugfest in Lake Katrine

gibson eldridge debate HZT

Challenger Sean Eldridge and Congressman Chris Gibson. (photo by Phyllis McCabe)

Onstage before a partisan-packed standing-room-only crowd, Republican Congressman Chris Gibson and challenger Sean Eldridge traded some of the fiercest barbs yet in a race that has already seen allegations of shameless carpet-bagging and selling out to corporations. The debate, the second of four forums scheduled this month, was held Monday evening at Miller Middle School in Lake Katrine and sponsored by the Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Both candidates took the opportunity to hammer their opponent’s perceived weaknesses. For Eldridge, a 28-year-old venture capitalist and newcomer to region, that meant highlighting votes to defund Planned Parenthood and sue President Barack Obama that he said belied Gibson’s image as a moderate consensus builder. Gibson meanwhile relentlessly attacked Eldridge as a hypocrite for criticizing Gibson’s acceptance of support from big oil and gas companies while holding stock in some of the same corporations.


The sparring on stage was matched, and at times overshadowed, by the action in the audience. Both sides worked to turn out energetic supporters for the event. Gibson’s Republican adherents gathered on the right side of the school auditorium while Eldridge partisans occupied the left. Both sides at times weighed in with cheers, boos and derisive laughter despite moderator and Chamber President Ward Todd’s pleas for calm. One Gibson critic repeatedly and loudly heckled the Congressman leading to a brief shouting match with fellow audience members and the appearance of a town of Ulster police officer discretely taking up a position in the back of the room.

Gibson, as he has done throughout the campaign, sought to show off his bipartisan credentials. He repeatedly invoked his membership in “No Labels,” a group of Democratic and Republican lawmakers dedicated to overcoming gridlock and his status as “the second most independent Republican in Congress.” He pointed to a farm bill, jobs training legislation and the first federal budget in five years as evidence of his bipartisan bonafides and took Eldridge to task for what he characterized as pledging lockstep support for progressive interest groups. Eldridge, he said, failed to grasp that in an era of divided government, compromise was the only alternative to gridlock.

“This is really the overarching question of this debate,” said Gibson. “Who has the temperament to bring people together and get things done?”

Eldridge countered by portraying Gibson as just another vote in the house Republican Caucus and linking him to unpopular votes to shut down the government in an effort to defund Obamacare.

“Look at the record of Republican compromise,” said Eldridge. “I think shutting down the government and nearly defaulting on our debt because they didn’t agree with the president on one issue — healthcare — I think that’s wrong, that’s not compromise I can believe in.”

There are 6 comments

  1. gerald berke

    I dunno: some people didn’t like Maurice Hinchey, and Sean looks to be every bit as good or better! So that could spell trouble.
    I don’t have to understand why people vote the way they do… But I am responsible for knowing why I vote the way I do for each candidate I vote for.
    I don’t know that Mr. Gibson could have ducked debates with Eldrige… the debates have been brilliant demonstrations of the candidates positions… for that I have to be grateful.
    But it is Mr Eldridge that is addressing the real changes we must make in this democracy to keep it a democracy… public funding for campaigns…

  2. Chris

    The audience was appaling only interested in hearing themselsves scream. It was perfect example of why congress isn’t working! No one wants to listen. While Gibson is weak on the environment, Eldridge is just as weak on his investments that show he doesn’t walk the talk. He is after all running as an investor and as such his investments are his voting record despite trying to pawn it off on a third party (call your guy up Sean there are plenty of socially responsible funds these days). Both these candidates had me missing Hinchey! Maybe I’ll look to see who the Green Party is running!

  3. nopolitics

    I dunno, Gerald, some people didn’t like Abe Lincoln either, one of whom was named John Wilkes Booth. I dunno, Gerald…Eldridge is going to singlehandedly pass campaign finance reform….yes? Sure he is. And a duck is coming to fly into my oven for Thanksgiving Dinner also. Of course we need third parties, because you think either major party is going to pass campaign finance reform? Hasn’t happened in the last 45 + years I’ve heard it talked about by the two major parties. Watch “60 Minutes” a bit and ye shall learn the worst offenders on campaign contributions are also Demcorats. Eldridge is like Hinchey? Oh, so he actually did something to SERVE others like Hinchey did in the Navy before he entered politics? Nothing apart from throw some of his considerable money around a bit. “Ennnh!” sounds the buzzard. The Dems really goofed on picking Eldridge this time, but $$$ talks everywhere. I haven’t seen quite this level of vacuous political “debates” and baloney-level campaign propaganda apart from this year’s version in a long time. Get real, Gerald.

  4. Susan

    Look at Gibson’s voting record and that indicates to me that he is not a moderate Republican, but a very conservative one. I will vote for Sean Eldridge because I believe that he will represent the best interests in a changing world, particularly in Ulster County. In terms of his personal investments, the socially responsible funds don’t keep up with inflation and besides many of these funds charge highly fees. Voting GREEN is like throwing your vote down the toilet.

    1. Derek Balling

      “In terms of his personal investments, the socially responsible funds don’t keep up with inflation and besides many of these funds charge highly fees.”

      So…. profits are more important than the environment? Isn’t that the same argument Eldridge is (allegedly) saying is bad? Isn’t opposition to fracking essentially saying “the environment is more important than profits”?

      I guess it’s OK for *him* to profit from fracking, but not land-owners who might want to sell/lease their land to energy companies.

  5. WorryWoman

    The look on Sean Eldridge’s face says it all – he has no real idea of what we are going through – he is after all a Canadian who has only been a citizen for what – seven years – and has millions of dollars in his bank account – an amount unheard of for most of us and so goes that “I feel your pain” or you will help us keep our hard earned money. Most serious problem for me is that Sean Eldridge supports abortions up to the ninth month which is murdering of babies in my book. Would he be here if his own mother believed in abortion? Has he even seen the videos of how a baby is formed and what it looks like at different states of growth? These babies feel pain and so you would allow the mothers to kill their own child? And have the taxpayers pay for it? There is a war on women and it is thinking like this that is the real war on women. And the men should be as responsible for these babies as well. It takes two to make a baby and it should take two to be responsible for the life they created. (There are exceptions such as in the cases of incest and rape).

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