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Accusations fly during Dear, Weiner TV debate

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U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) and City Councilman Noach Dear (D-Brooklyn), who face each other in the Democratic primary race for Weiner's seat in Congress, slugged it out Tuesday in a televised debate laced with accusations on both sides.

Weiner suggested Dear's fund-raising ethics at best were questionable and Dear contended Weiner repeatedly voted against families.

It is the second time around for the two adversaries. They competed for votes in 1998 when Weiner barely defeated Melinda Katz of Forest Hills in a four-candidate Democratic primary race and Dear finished third for the seat vacated by Charles Schumer, now one of New York's two U.S. senators.

Weiner and Dear met Monday in a debate televised on the Channel 1 program "Inside City Hall."

Dear, as in the past, asked how as a bachelor the 35-year-old Weiner could adequately serve families in the district, which covers Forest Hills, Richmond Hill, Ridgewood, Woodhaven and Glendale as well as the Rockaways and part of Brooklyn.

"Families in the 9th Congressional District have not been served," said Dear, a 47-year-old grandfather.

"I will work for families," Dear said. "He will not."

"I am suspicious when a politician preaches to us," Weiner said. " How is it pro-family to deny a woman the right to choose?" he asked, referring to Dear's opposition to many aspects of abortion.

Asked about his position on abortion, Dear said several times: "I will support the law of the land." He is against partial birth abortion, supports parent notification for girls seeking abortion and would like to see federal funds for abortion restriction.

Weiner also attacked Dear in connection with a private foundation for Russian Jewish children which he founded. In 1993 New York State Attorney General Robert Abrams ordered Dear to repay $37,000 in funds to the foundation after investigators found various diversions of Save Soviet Jewry's funds to Dear's alleged personal use.

Prodded by Weiner to discuss the issue, Dear said it was a personal matter and that he had moved past it.

Again and again during the debate, Dear reminded viewers that Weiner had voted for AIR-21, a congressional bill meant to hold the number of flights at LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International Airport at present levels but which may now bring vastly more flights to LaGuardia.

"He took thousands of dollars from the airlines, then voted for more flights over Queens and Brooklyn," said Dear

Weiner replied that the legislation did hold flights of regular airliners at existing levels but a compromise agreed to in an effort to get passage allows more flights by "regional jets" carrying no more than 70 passengers. He said aviation authorities doubt that anywhere near the more than 600 flights airlines have applied for will ever materialize. But Dear said a Port Authority official told him it was possible.

Weiner said one major issue was that "I am Democrat down the line, unlike my opponent, who will not even say which candidate he supports for president or for the United States Senate."

Dear has the backing of the Republican Party. He issued a press release this week saying Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a Republican, was scheduled to endorse him Wednesday at Broad Channel.

Weiner said Dear's core values suggested he was a Republican despite his Democratic Party affiliation.

Weiner also brought up a Federal Election Commission investigation of Dear's campaign finances in the 1998 election. An FEC audit listed questionable contributions totaling $563,913 from 325 individuals and two political committees in the period from July 1997 through December 1998.

Dear said he had cooperated with the Federal Election Commission and had rectified whatever mistakes had been cited by the agency.

Dear has criticized Weiner for voting against legislation to cut taxes for married people and increasing benefits for veterans. Weiner said he voted against it because the tax cuts would go mostly to rich people.

Dear, an Orthodox Jew, has assailed Weiner for accepting campaign contributions from gay rights and abortion rights organizations. Dear is an advocate for vouchers to pay for private schools.

Weiner is pro-choice on abortion and has fought against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

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