Kaplan, Franklin exchange virtual blows in Blank Slate Media debate

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Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) and Port Washington resident Dave Franklin participated in a virtual debate hosted by Blank Slate Media on Thursday. (Screenshot by Robert Pelaez)

State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) and challenger Dave Franklin, a Republican from Port Washington, clashed over President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic ahead of their election in the 7th Senate District. 

The two participated in a virtual forum hosted by Blank Slate Media last Thursday evening.  

The district includes Floral Park, New Hyde Park, Williston Park, Mineola, Garden City Park, North Hills, Albertson, Old Westbury, East Hills, Roslyn, Roslyn Harbor, Roslyn Estates, Albertson, Searingtown, Lake Success, Manhasset, Munsey Park, Plandome, Plandome Heights, Plandome Manor, and the Great Neck and Port Washington peninsulas.

Both candidates praised residents in the district for wearing masks and practicing social distancing to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Franklin commended Trump for his efforts in halting the spread of the virus, while Kaplan strongly disagreed.

“This was an epic disaster [from the national level],” Kaplan said. “Look at the Woodward tapes; the White House knew about this pandemic. They knew it was a problem and our president said, ‘I didn’t want to panic the country.’”

“The tough thing for any president is that you have an entire country to take care of,” Franklin said. “This virus is something we’re still learning about. What [Trump] did was better than the way he went about doing it. It was a job that was done, and he did a good job under the circumstances.”

On the topic of how Gov. Andrew Cuomo handled the pandemic, Kaplan commended his transparency and lack of sugarcoating the facts to spare feelings.

“[Cuomo] came on everyone’s channel every day and gave us a report with the facts,” Kaplan said. “He didn’t sugarcoat it, he said exactly how it was, and brought the experts on with him.”

Franklin said there were good and bad aspects of Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic. He again commended residents for their work in adhering to health and safety protocols and criticized Cuomo over outbreaks in nursing homes.

Kaplan was elected to serve the Town of North Hempstead’s 4th District as a councilwoman in 2011.  In 2016, she sought election to the House of Representatives, but lost to  current Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) in the Democratic primary.  Kaplan defeated former Flower Hill Mayor Elaine Phillips in 2018 to represent the 7th Senate District.

Franklin worked at MSG Networks for two years, and in 1983 accepted a job as an operations technician for HBO in Hauppauge. Franklin spent 36 years at the company, moving up to a position as a radio frequency technician, then an operations supervisor, working nights to raise his sons during the day. In 2010 Franklin ran for a seat on the Port Washington Police District’s Board of Commissioners. He won that race plus two other terms in 2013 and 2016, before losing his seat last year.

On the topic of police reform, Franklin touted the diversity and training of the Port Washington Police District, and said he would never defund the police.

“We were proactive with police training in our department, and we had a diverse police force in Port Washington,” Franklin said. “I think we have to concentrate on training across the board.”

“I believe a vast majority of officers who make our community safe are good people,” Kaplan said. “They are there to do a job, to make sure residents are safe. We need to make sure everyone understands no one is above the law here.”

Franklin called the killing of George Floyd “unconscionable” but said he does not believe that systemic racism is prevalent in Nassau County, and is not as widespread as many people perceive it to be.

“I have always supported the Black Lives Matter cause, but I have a problem with the movement,” Franklin said. “If you click on the donate button, you see that you’re donating to left-leaning Democrats.”

“That is a conspiracy theory about where those donations go,” Kaplan responded. “I went to peaceful protests. People who have had enough, they have a genuine concern. Going to these rallies, I witnessed for myself the pain the entire community has gone through.”

On a similar note, 12 swastikas were spray-painted in the Port Washington Police Athletic League clubhouse this month.  Kaplan visited the scene and called for the police to take action on the matter.  Both candidates said they have worked with diverse community groups throughout the district to combat instances such as this.

“We have seen hate crimes rise throughout the country and states and districts are not immune to it,” Kaplan said. “This message comes from the top. These are not new issues.”

Franklin said he believes that racism, hate speech and intolerant actions stem from a lack of quality, progressive education, an issue in itself.

“There is a problem, but it doesn’t start at the top,” Franklin said. “Educate our people and children with primary education. Teach acceptance. We have to teach that prejudice is wrong.”

On the subject of potentially consolidating school districts to provide more equal funding and quality in education, Franklin said it may be something to look at closer. 

“People have an equal opportunity with equal education,” he said. “We talk about a level playing field. We have to find ways to level that playing field.”

Kaplan said Franklin “talks a good talk” but did not comprehend how long this has been discussed in the upper echelons of government.

“This is very difficult, we are trying to tackle it, and it’s been about 10-15 years in the works,” Kaplan said. “I want to bring back as much federal money as we possibly can for public schools so that every child has the best education possible.”

Both candidates implored their constituents to go out and vote or to mail in their ballot, whichever one people feel best fits their needs. Both said they are comfortable with the safety of polling places and will respect the outcome of the election.

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