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Photos by Ryan Kelley/QNS
Vickie Paladino and Simon Minching, Republican candidates for the 11th Senate District of New York, at the Bay Terrace Community Alliance "Meet the Candidates Night" on Aug. 29.

A pair of first-time candidates are facing off for the right to represent the Republican party in Queens and a chance to earn a seat in Albany.

In the race for the 11th District of the New York State Senate — covering College Point, Whitestone, Bay Terrace, Bayside, Little Neck, Glen Oaks, Auburndale, Fresh Meadows, Oakland Gardens and parts of Flushing — Simon Minching and Vickie Paladino are on the ballot in the Republican primary on Sept. 13. Neither candidate has an established political career, but both were given the opportunity to explain their views at a recent forum in Bay Terrace.

Minching spoke first during the “Meet the Candidates Night” hosted by the Bay Terrace Community Alliance on Aug. 29, where more than 15 other candidates for various political races in the district also participated. The 31-year-old Little Neck resident introduced himself by telling the audience that he wants to offer voters a better choice than the same old incumbents.

“I’m here to offer a different product,” Minching said. “I want to take the best idea from both sides and use data and decency to solve problems for you.”

Since 2013, Minching has worked in business development for Palantir Technologies, a multibillion-dollar private software and services company. Before that Minching worked in Chicago Public Schools for two years where he specialized in the development of education budgets, health care and pension finance. He graduated from St. John’s University and also earned a Master in Public Policy from the University of Chicago.

The moderators of the panel first asked Minching a series of questions about illegal basement apartments and the problem of over development in the district, for which Minching said he will use his data-driven background to solve. In order to be more proactive than incumbent Senator Tony Avella, Minching said, he plans to scrape the available data to compare zoning codes in the district and “identify the sites where there is a disparity between what’s actually legal per the zoning code and what’s desirable and in alignment with the culture of the community.”

When asked what “common sense gun reform” he would propose, Minching said that legislators need to be more focused on stopping the flow of illegal guns into the state. With the Safe Act already in place, New York is one of the safest states in America when it comes to gun violence, and Minching said he plans to work with the governor to create a coalition of other states that work to penalize the states with less strict gun laws that are responsible for illegal guns used in a murder in New York.

Minching also said that he supports school zone speeding cameras, but believes there must be transparency about their presence so they are not used as a “backhanded way to tax people.” He also voiced his support for term limits and the independent redistricting of the Senate.

“I’m the one trying to bridge the divide between Democrats and Republicans,” Minching said. “We aren’t enemies. We need to reach across the aisle and focus on the 75 percent of things that we agree on, avoid the 25 percent of things that we disagree on, and once we get that 75 percent done I’ll gladly quit and let brighter minds take my place to solve the 25 percent of divisive issues.”

Paladino, 63, managed a successful landscaping company with her husband for more than 30 years. She spoke much later in the panel but got off to a fiery start as a panelist asked her a question from the audience about the meaning of comments she previously made at a campaign event about millennials being an “uninformed, dumb audience that doesn’t know what it’s like to pay a bill,” according to the panelist.

“I’m sick and tired of being taken out of context,” Paladino said. “I have two kids, a 31-year-old and a 41-year-old. I’m surrounded by nothing but millennials. How dare someone think they’re brave enough to take me out of context … Uninformed, damn right some of them are. Face facts, they’ve got their nose buried in their phones paying attention to video games. Yes, there are exceptions, but for the most part I respect millennials.”

The moderators also asked for her stance on basement apartments after supposedly being taken out of context on that issue at another event. Paladino explained that she does not support basement apartments in areas where the zoning makes them illegal, but she does support legal basement apartments.

When asked to clarify how she was previously taken out of context on that issue, Paladino said, “I did not understand the question. It was that easy.”

Paladino also said that she supports term limits and believes that the community needs to get more involved in stopping the over development in the area. She suggested that the community board needs to invite more people to its meetings where building plans are reviewed, and a panelist who is on the community board pointed out that all board meetings are open to the public.

Moderators also asked if Paladino would pledge to not work another job if elected to the Senate, to which she said yes and accused Minching of saying in the past that he will not quit his full-time job. She also explained that she does not believe in allowing illegal immigrants or convicted felons the right to vote until their sentence has been served.

In the end, Paladino agreed with Minching that better collaboration must emerge between Republicans and Democrats.

“I will be an extremely effective senator, I will walk across the aisle,” Paladino said. “We need open communication. I’m not turning my back on the Democratic Party because I’m running as a Republican; that’s not the way the world works. Do I look stupid to you?”

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