ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Just a few weeks ahead of the election, the two candidates for New York’s 25th congressional district faced off live on News 8. Democrat and incumbent Joe Morelle debated Republican La’Ron Singletary Monday evening.

The 25th congressional district covers Monroe County and parts of Orleans County, centered around Rochester. The debate was hosted by News 8 along with the nonpartisan organization League of Women Voters. The event was moderated by Adam Chodak, with questions from News 8 as well as the League of Women Voters.

Programming note: Wheel of Fortune will air at 2:07 a.m. and Jeopardy at 2:37 a.m.

The debate

Candidates were each asked individual questions and given a minute and a half to respond. Their opponent was then given a minute to respond. After that, each candidate had 30 seconds to add anything additional, should they choose.

The debate began with opening statements in a randomized order from each candidate.

Morelle went first, and highlighted the work he has done in congress to bring down the cost of prescription drugs, protecting access to reproductive care, and working to reduce the number of illegal guns. He emphasized how he will continue to work on those issues, and more.

“It has been a great honor and a privilege to represent you in Congress,” Morelle said. “And I hope to earn your support to continue serving the community I love.”

Singletary highlighted his platform issues of public safety, allowing families to choose their child’s public school, and curtailing inflation. He also took a moment to clarify his stance on abortion.

“Let me be clear, I am not trying to take away a woman’s right,” Singletary said. “I am personally pro-life and believe in the three exceptions. I want all women, especially black women, to have the resources and help they need to make a choice they want to make, not one they are forced into.”

Tensions rose with the first two questions, which dealt with police brutality and support of law enforcement in the wake of Daniel Prude and George Floyd’s deaths. Both candidates expressed a desire to support law enforcement. Singletary argued that Morelle was for defunding the police, something he vehemently denied.

The two also discussed abortion, with Morelle saying he is pro-choice, and pointing to legislation he has passed to bolster women’s reproductive rights. Singletary clarified that while he is pro-life, he supports abortion in certain, extreme cases.

After briefly discussing the economy and inflation, the two discussed the January 6 attack and the Electoral Count Act, which would specify how votes are counted, in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the incident at the Capitol. While Singletary said he was unable to discuss the specifics of that bill, he did specify that he saw no legitimate evidence that the election in 2020 was stolen. Morelle, too, shared this view, stating he was present the day of the January 6 attack.

Questions then pivoted away from politics to a more personal note. Morelle spoke about the loss of his daughter to cancer, and how that impacted his views on bolstering the healthcare system, both locally and nationally. Singletary spoke on how the fatal shooting of a young boy early in his career impacted his outlook on crime.

The last question asked candidates about their feelings on the crisis in Ukraine. Singletary emphasized the need for all diplomatic efforts to support Ukraine. He highlighted the need to bring in international allies to assist, too. Morelle stated that Congress should continue their current efforts, highlighting the work done to support the Ukrainian people.

The final question asked the candidates their views on gun control, and how to prevent violence both in Rochester, and nationally. Morelle highlighted his desire to ban semi-automatic weapons and reinforced his staunch view on gun control and gun legislation. Singletary pointed to the Supreme Court’s decision that Americans have the right to bear arms, and defended his support for gun rights, pointing instead to a focus on mental health and law enforcement to solve gun violence issues.

Due to timing issues, closing statements were unable to be delivered live. They will be aired at 11 p.m. and uploaded to this page.

The questions

Question 1 (Morelle): “Defund the police” was a refrain from many protesters following the deaths of George Floyd and Daniel Prude. You voted for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. While the AP reports that the act does not strip funds from police departments, your opponent claims you did not counter the defund police message when it was at its highest pitch. He’s told voters they should wonder whether you would, at some point, work to reduce police funding. What’s your response to that?

Question 2 (Singletary): In the wake of Daniel Prude’s death an independent investigator determined that when you told City Hall about the Medical Examiner’s report on April 10, 2020 you “downgraded and mischaracterized the findings.” When I interviewed former Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren in September of 2020 she said this: “Chief Singletary never informed me about the action of his officers to forcibly restrain Mr. Prude[…] At no time prior to August 4 did Chief Singletary or anyone make me aware or show me a video of the actions of the RPD officers involved in Prude’s death.” One could read these statements as her questioning your judgment, or perhaps even your character — what’s your response to her allegations and those findings?

Question 3 (Morelle): What federal legislation would you support to help cities to reduce crime rates?

Question 4 (Singletary): You describe yourself as pro-life, saying pregnant women should have options. But just to be clear, being pro-life: does that mean as a congressman you would vote to make sure abortion is not one of those options?

Question 5 (Morelle): Inflation is very real and very harmful to many families. Some economists and many Republicans blame spending under the Biden Administration and a Congress controlled by Democrats. Do you accept any blame for this rise in prices?

Question 6 (Singletary): In response to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, there is now legislation making its way through Congress that would update the Electoral Count Act and — in the eyes of its supporters — remove any question as to how electoral votes should be counted. Would you vote for the version recently passed by the House, if it has to come to the floor again? Follow-up (Singletary): Have you seen any legitimate evidence to support the argument being made by many Republicans that the election was stolen in 2020?

Question 7 (Morelle): We just did a story about how our healthcare systems here in Rochester are overwhelmed. Not just by the gun violence, but also after the pandemic we have nursing home residents being boarded in the E.D., and large wait times reducing the quality of care. What would you propose doing over the next term to help with this?

Question 8 (Morelle): Your daughter Lauren died of cancer 5 years ago. How has that influenced you in your job as Congressman?

Question 9 (Singletary): When I interviewed you a few years back, I asked if one case stood out among the others and you told me about the death of a young boy who had been shot and killed. Can you talk about how that impacted your outlook and perhaps reaches into where you are today?

Question 10 (Singletary): Should we be doing more, less, or the same when it comes to U-S involvement in the War in Ukraine?

Question 11 (Morelle): We have seen gun violence on the streets of Rochester and the country has seen gun violence within its schools. What would you propose moving forward in the next two years?

Full recording

Closing Statements

​Check back with News 8 WROC as we continue to update this developing story.