Joel Tyner appeared in the recent Pride Parade in New Paltz. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Based on applause following their 90-minute debate at the Woodland Pond senior-citizen complex in New Paltz on Monday, Julian Schreibman’s moderate approach to issues resonated more with the elderly audience than Joel Tyner’s sharp attacks on his opponent and at times moderator Gerald Benjamin.

The two candidates for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 19th Congressional District in the Tuesday, June 26 (all general election polling stations are open noon-9 p.m.) primary drew a standing-room-only crowd of over 125 attendees for the rare direct faceoff between them. Tyner has accused Schriebman of avoiding him. Schreibman said they have appeared at several forums together.

Both presented themselves as linear heirs to retiring Democratic congressman Maurice Hinchey. Both roundly criticized Chris Gibson of Kinderhook, a Republican who currently represents about half the district. The new eleven-county district includes all of Ulster, Greene, Delaware and Schoharie counties, and parts of Dutchess and Columbia and six others. On Tuesday morning, Hinchey formally endorsed Schreibman.

Tyner, 48, is a five-term Dutchess County legislator elected in heavily Republican towns. Schreibman, 39, is a corporate lawyer and a former federal prosecutor. He was briefly a candidate for Ulster County district attorney in 2007 and was Ulster County Democratic chairman for two and a half years, ending with his announcement to run for Congress in January.

The hour-long debate was followed by questions from the moderator and the audience, The event provided little distinction between the candidates, who in most cases promised to carry on Hinchey’s unfinished work.

Fracking and more

Tyner, who declared himself the underdog in the primary, proved to be the aggressor, repeatedly attacking Schreibman on such issues as hydrofracking, the redefinition of corporations as non-persons, and Medicare reform. Tyner characterized Schreibman as soft on most issues, while he pledged “to speak truth to power.”

While eschewing direct exchanges with Tyner for the most part, Schreibman minced few words in attacking Gibson for what he termed his “horrible environmental record” and his votes against Medicare “as we know it” and women’ reproductive rights.

Tyner vowed he would not accept contributions from Wall Street, insurance interests, or big banks. Recent campaign spending reports show Schreibman having raised over $250,000 (including $100,000 from himself), Gibson more than a million and Tyner something over $15,000, according to the candidate.

Tyner said he believes a coalition of “supercharged activists” and “anti-frackers” “will win this thing for me” over his better-financed opponents.