ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Testy at times, both candidates for Monroe County Executive took shots at their opponent’s record while defending their own during a Voice of the Voter debate Thursday night.

Incumbent Democrat Adam Bello accused former Gates Town Supervisor Mark Assini, a Republican, of casting votes while in the county legislature that contributed to some of the problems we’re seeing today.

Assini, on the other hand, claimed Bello stood solidly on the wrong side of several issues.

Specifically, Assini took issue with Bello’s willingness to help take in and house asylum seekers from New York City.

“When we have people going to bed homeless, hungry and afraid every night in our own community and we prioritize people at the Holiday Inn who are getting three meals a day, a roof over their head and benefits that many families aren’t entitled to, some families the best meal they get is at the school district, what do I tell that mom?” Assini asked.

Bello responded by saying he did not have a choice.

“We took a thoughtful reasonable approach,” Bello said “There were many counties across the state like Onondaga County, Rockland County, Orange County that straight up tried to prohibit it like my opponent said he’d try to do. All that ended up happening was those counties spent a lot of money in legal fees and asylum seekers were relocated to their counties anyways.”

When asked about the opioid epidemic, Assini pounced.

“You broke a record in 2021 for the most opioid deaths ever in Monroe County. We still don’t know what 2022 opioid deaths are because you haven’t released the number. Erie County released the numbers back in March,” Assini said.

“Well of course the numbers have risen here just like they have every place else in the country, Mark, we don’t operate in a vacuum here,” Bello said in reply.

Crime and law enforcement ate up the most time and drew the most back-and-forth between the candidates.

“I will fight to repeal Raise the Age, Less is More and Cashless Bail. Mr. Bello is beholden to his political party that put these laws in place that why he hasn’t asked for their repeal, I will,” Assini said.

Bello said he’s running for county executive not a state seat, but added he has requested changes.

“I sat on the consortium with (Monroe County) Sheriff Todd Baxter, we joined together with faith leaders, community leaders, business leaders to advocate for changes in bail reform laws and less is more and all those laws that you’re talking about, I’m on record with that, we did plenty of press and media about that so you’re wrong,” Bello said.

Right before the topic was shifted, Assini asked Bello if he has demanded a repeal.

After the debate, both candidates offered their take on the night.

“I think what you heard today from my opponent is a desire to take us back,” Bello said. “Take us backwards where its all about politics, saying anything you want to just to get elected when at the end of the day that’s what broke county government in the first place.”

“Well, you know, when you’re in a debate especially when there are tough issues sometimes the opponent tends to embellish and not tell the truth because they don’t want to acknowledge it so that happens,” Assini said. “I posted all the facts on my website but in general I got most of what I wanted to say out.”

News 8 and the League of Women asked both candidates to debate at the News 8 studio.

Assini agreed, but Bello declined saying he was only going to participate in one televised debate this year.