DA candidates visit campus for final pre-election debate

On Wednesday Oct. 24, candidates for Livingston County district attorney went head-to-head in a debate sponsored by the law firm of Cannon and Van Allen.

Candidates for the upcoming election include current Livingston County District Attorney Greg McCaffrey, D-N.Y., former Assistant DA Eric Schiener, R-N.Y., and conservative candidate, former Marine Corps judge and prosecutor Steve Sessler.

Josh Williams, publisher of the Genesee Sun, and Joe Lasky, news director of WYSL Radio, moderated the debate in Newton 202. The two posed 12 randomly chosen questions to the candidates, and each candidate had time deliver a short response.

The questions addressed a range of issues that fall under the DA’s jurisdiction such as the existence of specialized courts, New York State Penal Laws, protection of the right of the Grand Jury and utilization of the Livingston County Office of the District Attorney’s budget. Other questions were geared toward eliciting each candidate’s opinion on the role of the DA.

The debate began with opening statements from each of the three candidates.

McCaffrey shared his experience as current Livingston County district attorney and cited the accomplishments that he said he’s made during his five months in office.

“This election should not be about political affiliation,” McCaffrey said. “It should not be about how long someone was in the Livingston County attorney’s office, but what kind of career path they took to get to this point.”

Throughout the debate, Sessler discussed his view of the DA’s responsibility to seeking justice and establishing a high degree of ethics within the court system.

“In order for society to move and go forward, you have to have a strong foundation, and one of the cornerstones of that foundation is a strong criminal justice system,” Sessler said.

Schiener discussed his 12-year involvement as an assistant in the Livingston County Office of the District Attorney.

In response to a question concerning the role of a prosecutor, Schiener said, “I was taught a very valuable lesson by [former] District Attorney Tom Moran: ‘Every day you do the right thing for the right reasons.’”

Regarding his performance in the Oct. 24 debate, Schiener said in a telephone interview, “I think it went very well. I equated it with my basketball-playing days; I kind of felt like I was being double-teamed, but I think I held my own.”

McCaffrey offered his debate critiques in a telephone interview.

“I wish Schiener would have answered the questions posed more directly,” he said. “He made this race about experience, and when Sessler and I wanted to engage him in that debate, he didn’t partake.”

Sessler said in a telephone interview that he was disappointed with the amount of personal attacks during the debate.

“There was a lot of back-and-forth between the other two candidates, which is not what we need,” he said.

Livingston County citizens and close supporters of the candidates comprised the majority of the audience, with a few Geneseo students in attendance.

Senior Jade Johnson said that she found the debate to be informative.

“Even though I’m not from the area, I learned a lot about how things work up here,” she said. “I felt that overall [the candidates] did pretty well.”

President of Geneseo College Republicans junior Isaac Baskin said, “I think Republican candidate Schiener did exceptionally well, especially with his closing arguments – really dividing out defense attorneys from prosecutors and the real difference between them. Overall it was positive, and I look forward to Election Day.”

The three candidates said that they are wrapping up their last days of campaigning before the general election on Tuesday Nov. 6.