Who will take Congressman Dent’s seat in Washington?
The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce recently hosted a live debate with the six Democratic candidates running for the seventh Congressional seat at Coordinated Health, South Whitehall.
This live debate hosted by Tony Iannelli for the television show Business Matters, included candidates Susan Wild, Roger Ruggles, John Morganelli, Greg Edwards, Rick Daugherty and David Clark.
The six Democratic candidates are vowing for Congressman Charlie Dent’s seat in the seventh Congressional district which was changed from the 15th Congressional district during redistricting.
Some of the topics at the debate included abortion, immigration, DACA, gun laws and the second amendment, economics, taxes and the budget, foreign policy, Russia, military spending, and building the wall.
Wild, a lawyer with 30 years experience and the first female solicitor for the City of Allentown said her campaign is about fighting for families.
“I have spent my career fighting tough battles and I have advocated fiercely for people and I have tackled corruption and that is what I want to do in Washington,” Wild said.
On the issue of immigration, Wild said she believes immigrants are a net benefit to the society that they live in overall.
“I think when we treat them as criminals or we disallow sanctuary city, we are creating an atmosphere where immigrants actually would rather be in the net benefit to our society that they could be or will always be running scared and as a result we don’t have the benefit of them reporting crimes,” Wild said.
Wild said in regards to the issue of path of citizenship, she believes in a path of citizenship.
“I think we are doing the right things. I think the laws need to be uniformly applied,” Wild stated.
Wild said on the issue of gun laws and the second amendment nobody is here to take away peoples guns, there self defense or sporting weapons.
“The 1994 ban on assault weapons worked, gun violence actually dropped during that period of time unfortunately it was set to expire after 10 years and in fact it did expire and here we are,” she said. “There is no question that reasonable, sensible gun regulations work.”
Wild said on the issue of the Democratic Party, she believes the main thing they need to do in 2018 is to unify.
“I think if we can’t unify we are playing right into the Republicans hands and this is the year that we would be blowing a golden opportunity if Democrats don’t pull together,” Wild stated.
Wild said that campaign finance reform is absolutely essential to this campaign but the very first thing she would want to jump on in Washington is gun violence.
“We need to take advantage of the fact we have these terrific millennials who are getting behind it and really making people care about this issue,” she stated.
Wild said on the issue of the budget, every time government enacts a budget, they are making a value statement.
“We have perversion of priorities, for example we spend $600 billion on defense and $70 billion on education,” she stated. “Our priorities are messed up. We need to reprioritize.”
Wild said on the issue of foreign policy, she would like to see America resurrect its wonderful global relationships with other countries that it had in the past even through times of strife.
“We have always been a leader in the world,” she said. “We have been looked up to and we no longer are, it is an embarrassment and I think it is detrimental to us as a country.”
Wild said on the issue of military spending, American’s defense budget is really nothing more than an entitlement program for defense contractors.
Wild said she is absolutely not for building the wall.
“I think we need to end that silly idea and put that money towards education and healthcare,” she stated.
Ruggles, who is a 33-year faulty member of Lafayette College and has served 10 years on the Easton City Council, said his main commitment is a commitment to the people.
“I think that the important thing is to listen to the people,” Ruggles said. “Only through listening to the people can we back our insight and respect to the federal government.”
Ruggles said he thinks one of the fundamental things on immigration is the fact that the laws are arcade and there are so many people that are potential immigrants, who are living in refugee camps.
“The fact that we tend to look at a specific problem, (such as) immigration and we say OK how do we control our borders or how do we admit certain people to the country. Let’s look at it on a more global scale and see why these immigrants are coming here,” he said.
Ruggles said he is firmly against having assault weapons available to the public.
On the issue of the Democratic Party, Ruggles said right at this point in time the Democratic Party is in a position to really make a statement.
Ruggles said his first priority in Washington if he is elected would be education.
“I think Washington has lots and lots of issues and problems that they need to address,” he stated. “I think though that one of the fundamental foundations that we need to look at is education. Education builds on everything else.
“From education we get people who are in healthcare, we get a stronger economy, we get people who address our infrastructure needs,” he said.
Ruggles said he thinks the budget issue is the biggest issue in Washington because everything evolves around it.
“I would be for a balanced budget,” he stated. “We could only spend the money that we have in the revenue line item.”
Ruggles said on the issue of our allies, when he was serving as a scholar teaching one year in Uganda, Africa, see saw in that short time the erosion of U.S. influence in that country.
“We have experienced over the last several decades the continued erosion of our influence over seas and this is coming back to get us with the immigration issues and with other issues that are in a global context,” he said.
Ruggles said on the issue of military spending, he thinks that Congress should really investigate and increase salaries for those serving in the armed forces.
Morganelli, who has served 25 years as the Northampton District Attorney said during his time as district attorney he has taken on tough fights in law enforcement and he is running for Congress to fight for the middle class.
Morganelli said his position on the abortion issue is probably similar to Senator Bob Casey and he is also for Planned Parenthood.
“I am pro-life,” he stated. I believe that abortion should remain legal for incest, rape, life of the mother and extreme (physical) deformity,” he said.
He said as far as immigration he holds a long position on this and he is a law enforcement officer and believes in the laws.
“I support DACA because I think these are kids who have done nothing wrong, who came her not through their own will and I believe there is a middle ground,” Morganelli stated. “We have to have borders, but we also have to have compassion for certain people who are here.”
Morganelli said in 2008 when he was a Democratic candidate running for attorney general he got an F rating from the National Rifle Association.
“The reason I got that rating was because I was for banning assault weapons and I agree with Wild, government needs to reinstate the law on assault weapons,” he said.
Morganelli said the first thing he wants to do when he gets to Washington is to defend against the erosion of what the Republicans have done.
“I support and I think all the candidates support universal healthcare for all; that is an important issue for me,” he said. “Also, I want to address student debt. A lot of young people in my office are saddled with student debt and what I see is they can’t get out from under it.
“Also, Susan is right we have to do something about guns,” Morganelli stated.
Morganelli said he also agrees with Ruggles that education is an important issue.
“I think we also have to focus on apprenticeships and vocational (training) because not everybody goes college,” he stated. “We need to train kids so everyone has good paying jobs.”
Moganelli said on the issue of our allies and foreign policy, the American foreign policy over the last 50 to 70 years really hasn’t changed much.
“However, I think some of my fellow candidates here are correct that (President) Trump has tarnished relationships with some of our traditional and friendly allies and we need to rebuild those relationships,” he stated. “America has to lead if we don’t China will take our place, Russia will take our place, then we won’t be in the position where we need to be.”
Morganelli said on the issue of military spending, he thinks America needs a strong defense and a good military budget but that Congress definitely needs to take a hard look at it.
Edwards, who has degrees and credentials in urban leadership, community economic development, theology, philosophy and a doctorate degree in public policy said for the last 25 years he has advocated for civil rights in the area of healthcare, education and economic issues of injustice.
He said he wants to go to Washington to continue the work he has done all his life, to advocate for those who have no voice.
“Our society ills are due to and stem from an imbalance of power and economics,” Edwards stated. “And we are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history. We have got to gather the collective power and wheel and push for change.”
He said the Democrats have conceded too much of their power and now is the moment that they have to transition the movement, garner their power to push for an agenda that embraces people that for too long have been left behind and out of the American dream.
Edwards said on the issue of immigration, America needs to break out of the boundary of seeing immigrants as illegal aliens and see the humanity of every person as ultimately being a contributor to society.
“When we understand the contributions that immigrants make and when we understand that in terms of public policy we have no clean clear pathway to citizenship. That is the reality and that is the gridlock in Congress,” Edwards said.
Edwards said on the issue of guns, government need to reinstate the federal ban on assault weapons.
“We need to make sure we have universal background checks that can’t be remediated across state lines,” he stated. “We need to make sure if you are purchasing more than one firearm that you have a home safety check just to make sure everything is OK, that is not a violation of anyone’s second amendment.”
Edwards said on the issue of the Democratic Party, they have left too much of their power on the table.
“What I mean by that is we have opportunities to push for courageous bold legislation and we walk away,” he stated. “As a result of that Republicans have dismantled the ACA.
“Time and time again when we don’t take those moments and create a movement and push thinking that we win elections by being Republican like, statically we lose elections,” he stated.
Edwards said Dent’s seat is one of the seats that could change the balance of power in Washington.
“We have to make sure that we do campaign finance reform,” he stated. “Unless we do that we will continue to get the same profile person in Congress.”
Edwards stated on the issue of training kids for going paying jobs, that won’t happen until there is a fair funding formula for all school districts.
“There is a great deal of inequity of how schools are getting funded,” he said.
On the issue of the budget, Edwards said government needs to close corporate loop holds and they need to deal with healthcare, which is breaking the backs of small businesses who can’t afford the premiums.
“If healthcare was off the table and we had universal healthcare, we would have more families who had elder care and weren’t going bankrupt towards the end of their life, losing everything they worked for.
On the issue of Russia, Edwards said America needs diplomacy and soft power except when there are humans and rights violations.
“We’ve got to be very careful because this administration has alienated all of our historic allies,” Edwards stated. “So for us in this administration to be mediating issues in the Middle East is very dangerous.”
Daugherty, who was the district administrator for Congressman Paul McHale said it is important to have a focus and his focus in Washington is going to be to help senior citizens.
“I have been working with seniors for two decades,” Daugherty stated. “The social security cost of living adjustment has been a cruel joke the last 10 years.
“I really think Washington has ignored senior issues, there are so many distractions and so many silly things going on and I want to focus on being a legislator,” he said.
Daugherty said on the issue of DACA, dreamers should be citizens, they were brought here as children and this is the only country they know, this is their country.
“For other immigrants who came here and that are undocumented there should be a legal status that could allow them to stay in this country,” he said. “They did break the law but we shouldn’t be ripping families apart.”
Daugherty said on the issue of guns he agrees with having universal background checks and the red flag legislation through the courts in case somebody look dangerous that their weapons can be taken from them during that time period.
Daugherty said the first thing he wants to do in Washington is to increase social security and increase the cost of the living adjustment that people receive each year.
He said another top priority would be to expand Medicare to include more at home care services.
On the issue of the budget, Daugherty said government first needs to eliminate the wage cap on social security and the second is the military budget.
“We spend as much on our military as the next eight largest military budget countries around the world combined and yet we feel like we are not safe and its not audited,” he stated.
Daugherty said on the issue of allies and foreign policy, he thinks the military is over extended.
“I think we need to focus and go back to relying on diplomacy, that’s our strength and that’s what we should focus on in terms of engaging the world and improving the world,” he stated.
Daugherty said on the issue of military spending, so much of that money is wasted on spending that it really doesn’t enhance our national security.
Clark, who has been working for 40 years studying federal issues, said he is very familiar with the problems in government and he has solutions.
He said the crux of his campaign is he will push for Congress to balance the budget with a graduated income tax and educate people in government of what the Koch Brothers have been doing to the country.
Clark said on the issue of the DACA situation, it was caused by all the presidents since former President Ronald Reagan.
“These kids shouldn’t be punished because these presidents didn’t act on immigration and they should have a path to citizenship for that reason,” Clark said.
Clark said he is tired of the courts chipping away and taking away the rights of women when Roe vs. Wade is the law.
“Either you change the law or follow the law, you don’t make it more difficult for a woman to follow the law,” Clark stated.
Clark said he believes along the same line as Wild that assault weapons and extended clips have no place in a civilized society.
“I believe in strong background checks that cover all sales in stores, online, down the street and from a friend,” Clark stated. “Background checks must be done for the purchase of every gun.”
Clark said on the issue of his first priority in Washington, until Congress gets rid of the Koch Brothers there is not much that can be done.
“Nothing is going to happen until government reverses Citizen United because the Koch Brothers have bought the United States government and now they control the whole thing,” he stated.
“People don’t want to accept that the Koch Brothers own the Republican Party,” he stated. “They have abused Citizen United. They own John Roberts on the Supreme Court, who gave them the final decision on that.”
Clark said on the issue of the budget, government has to realize corporations don’t pay their fair share of taxes and yet they are given more tax cuts.
“With my graduated income tax, I would like to cut all these loop holes and make corporations, millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share,” Clark stated. “Balancing the budget with a graduated income tax will provide us with the funds to do everything that we need in the present and in the future.”
Clark said on the issue on foreign policy, he believes government needs to be tough with North Korea but he doesn’t believe President Trump should be the one to deal with it.