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Maffei, Katko talk ISIS, minimum wage in latest debate

Ellen Abbott
Democrat Dan Maffei (left) and Republican John Katko (middle) debate the issues at the Thursday Morning Roundtable..

With less than a week to go until Election Day, candidates in one of the highest profile races in central New York are in the midst of a debate blitz. Democrat incumbent Dan Maffei and his Republican challenger, John Katko, are both running to represent the 24th Congressional District, and outlined their stands at the Thursday Morning Roundtable in DeWitt.

The candidates offered up views on foreign policy to kick off the latest debate, specifically whether American troops should be used to deal with the advancement of ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, in the Middle East.

Maffei says he opposes boots on the ground.

"I don’t believe we should send troops," Maffei said. "I don’t believe we should risk another land war in Iraq. Our military families have done enough, over and over again. And unfortunately for all those years in Iraq, and all those years in Afghanistan, after we took care of the Taliban and got al-Qaida out of Afghanistan, it didn’t do anything to protect our safety here.”

Katko believes the threat of American troops in that region should remain an option, but he would only support it as a last resort.

"A last resort to me is, if I was in Congress and I was briefed by military leaders that we have to do this now, and there is a consensus built among all the leaders that it’s such a national threat to us that we can’t wait for them to get there, and we have to do something now," Katko explained. "For example, if they overrun Iraq and they overrun Turkey.”

The roundtable also covered the minimum wage debate. Maffei defended legislation that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

“Most small businesses in this district pay far higher than the minimum wage," Maffei said. "But that’s okay. I still think we should give that help because there will be upward pressure on all wages when the minimum wage is increased. Again, it will be gradual, but I’d like to make sure that doesn’t impact small businesses.”

Katko says he supports a more gradual increase of the minimum wage. He says he’s concerned about a Congressional Budget Office report that says 50,000 jobs will be lost if the minimum wage goes up.

“If there’s an offset to the minimum wage, so these jobs are not loss, I’m okay with it," Katko said. "But as far as the way it is now, in its current form, I can’t vote for a bill that’s going to cost job losses.”

The race for the 24th is being called a toss up by national political pundits. The 24th Congressional District includes all or parts of Onondaga, Cayuga, Wayne and Oswego Counties.