Democrats will meet in their latest TV debate Thursday evening as a winnowing process is starting in the historically crowded field.
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has dropped her bid and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio didn’t meet the debate criteria. That leaves only businessman Andrew Yang and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as the only candidates with New York ties on the stage this evening.
And yet, there are key issues that affect New Yorkers to be discussed. Here are five New York issues to watch.
1. Gun control
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has sought to challenge Democratic candidates running for president to make gun control a signature issue in the race. He argues that taking a muscular stance on issues like banning assault-style weapons, strengthening background checks and supporting a “red flag” law to keep guns away from those considered dangerous wouldn’t hurt the party politically.
Indeed, gun control remains popular with Democratic voters and has support even among independents on issues like background checks. For now, Congress is showing little desire to act on the issue and President Donald Trump has made contradictory statements on the issue.
2. The opioid crisis.
A tentative settlement with the Sackler family, which owns the company responsible for Oxycontin, has been blasted by state attorneys general, including New York’s Letitia James. Any settlement could be a major windfall for state governments and could be worth billions of dollars. But prosecutors are considered the settlement will let the Sackler family and its company Purdue Pharma off the hook from being responsible for the opioid addictions crisis that has gripped the country.
3. Health care.
Fresh Census data shows nationally a decline in the health insurance rate among Americans. Not so in New York, which is bucking the national trend. The rise in the number of uninsured people could be attributed in part to efforts to weaken the Affordable Care Act, while in New York state lawmakers and Gov. Cuomo have backed measures to bolster it amid a series of federal court challenges. The ACA is one of the key legacies of the Obama administration. But progressives in the Democratic Party are attempting to go even further and push for either a single-payer model or a “Medicare for all” expansion. The divide is perhaps the most significant among former Vice President Joe Biden and the rest of the field.
4. Climate change.
Reducing carbon emissions responsible for the changing climate of the planet remains a top concern for the base of the Democratic Party. Candidates spent hours at a forum earlier this month discussing the issue. A “Green New Deal” — various versions of which have been proposed by Democrats and enacted in New York — are being discussed. The question remains: How can the candidates stand out on an issue that the party itself broadly agree on?
President Donald Trump on Wednesday proposed a ban on flavored e-cigarettes amid heightened concerns over the health affects of vaping and reports of vaping-related illnesses striking users. In New York, Gov. Cuomo announced an investigation of vaping products and once again reiterated a proposal to ban flavored e-cigarettes in the state that he made earlier this year. The vaping industry is striking back, calling the reports of illnesses linked to their products questionable.