The race for the 93rd state Assembly District got contentious over the weekend, as Democratic challenger David Buchwald assailed Republican incumbent Robert Castelli over past votes on gun legislation.
“In a short time as assemblyman, Robert Castelli has voted to allow dangerous criminals to have guns and to keep law enforcement from having the tools it needs to solve as many gun crimes as possible," Buchwald said at a Saturday press conference with supporters, which was held at in Chappaqua.
In particular, Buchwald hit Castelli for voting three against legislation he argues would help make it harder for domestic violence abusers to get guns. One of those bills, A04488A, passed the assembly on June 14, 2011, and again on March 21, 2012. The earlier bill was voted on in 2010.
“There are some votes that tell you a lot about your representative," Buchwald, a White Plains Councilman, said about the domestic violence legislation. "This was a crucial test of Assemblyman Castelli’s commitment to Westchester values, and he flunked that test.”
Buchwald also slammed Castelli for voting against a bill that would require certain firearms to be capabable of doing microstamping of ammunition stored. The vote was held on June 17. Buchwald argued that it would help in tracing shell casings back to guns that fired them, which in turn would help in catching the perpetrators.
Hitting Castelli, Buchwald painted him as someone who is not working in the best interest of police or in supporting Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“He’s been siding with the NRA and against Governor Cuomo, and our law enforcement professionals," he said.
Castelli's campaign hit back, and made a bid at playing offense.
In a response statement, Castelli's side described the domestic violence bills raised by Buchwald as being flawed because they did not address a federal loophole that enabled people convicted of misdemeanor-level domestic violence to purchase guns.
“As a public servant who spent my entire career in law enforcement and higher education as it relates to criminal justice, I know first-hand how domestic violence and abuse are far more prevalent than many realize,” Castelli responded in his press release. “That is why I have fought not only for stricter penalties for abusers, but also for laws that focus on preventing these heinous crimes and protecting victims in an effort to curb domestic violence.”
Castelli's campaign also argued that the use of microstamping is not an effective tool against crime.
Castelli, a former professor of Criminal Justice at CUNY John Jay and a chair of the Criminal Justice Department at Iona College, also noted his academic credentials in the area. He is also a former New York state trooper.
Playing offense, Castelli went after Buchwald for a recent rise in White Plains crime. His press release cited data showing a 32.3-percent increase in Part One Crimes" from June 2011 compared to June 2012. Part One includes violent crimes, burglary and theft. The release also claimed that violent crime has increased by 50 percent since Buchwald joined the White Plains Common Council.
Barry Caro, a spokesman for Buchwald, argued that Castelli's assertion about crime in White Plains is misleading. He stated that violent crimes have only gone up slightly from last year (43 versus 41, as of last weekend). Much of the overall crime increase can be attributed to a rise in larceny, he explained. He also disputed the 50-percent rise claim.
"To be clear, and to be explicit, Assemblyman Castelli's claim that there's been a 50% increase in violent crime in the last 3 years is an outright falsehood," he wrote in a response. "It is completely untrue, and the fact that he's making up numbers is a sign of desperation and a clear instance of dishonesty."
The 93rd district includes New Castle, Mount Kisco, Bedford, Harrison and part of White Plains.