House Candidates Square Off In First Local Debate

MAYVILLE — Jabs were exchanged and differences were outlined as the candidates for Congress squared off for the first time in Chautauqua County on Tuesday.

The debate, held by the League of Women Voters at the Chautauqua Lake High School auditorium, allowed the crowd of over 100 to gather insight as to where Republican incumbent Tom Reed and Democratic challenger John Plumb stood on various issues from Social Security and immigration to fair pay for women and the Affordable Care Act, among other pertinent issues.

The candidates also criticized one another as Plumb went after Reed’s support of Trump and backing from Wall Street while Reed took aim at his challenger’s questionable grade he received from the National Rifle Association and his support for Hillary Clinton.

The debate also saw Reed acknowledging and thanking Plumb for his service to the country for the first time publicly while Plumb got emotional as he criticized Donald Trump’s mockery of prisoners of war, including John McCain.

Delving into health care, the candidates both stated a need to address the Affordable Care Act amid skyrocketing premium costs. Plumb, D-Jamestown, said the ACA is misnamed, not affordable and only getting worse as he proposed a change to the Cadillac tax so laborers aren’t taxed like CEOs for a good health plan. Plumb went at Reed for voting to repeal the ACA 63 times with no plan to fix it.

“That is making it worse every single time. It’s wasting our time. It’s wasting our taxpayer dollars because we’re paying him to go to Congress for these things,” he said.

Reed, R-C-I-Corning, relayed the need to repeal and replace the ACA. Reed said he’s not talking about going back to the status quo or supporting policies that won’t fix the issue. Reed said repealing and replacing it will get to the fundamental issue, and that’s health care costs.

“The ACA in my opinion went down the path of mandating insurance coverage in order to take care of the uninsured situation,” Reed said. “What we’re seeing is it’s driving people out of the health care insurance market because you got 25 percent premium increases that just came out just the other day. At the town halls I’ve been at, I’ve seen the impacts of this law.”

Looking at the future of Social Security, Reed said it needs to be preserved as it supports families across the district. Reed said he’s supportive of the lifetime cap removal, a Bernie Sanders proposal, but changing the benefit needs to be done “eyes wide open so people know what they’re getting into.” Reed said he backs age adjustments for people in their 40s who have time to prepare for their retirement.

Plumb said Social Security needs to stay solvent as it’s one of the most effective government plans in the history of government, keeping 22 million seniors out of poverty every year. Plumb said it’s not something to be toyed with for Wall Street’s benefit.

“In our rural areas, far too many rely on that for it to be toyed,” he said.

Discussing immigration, Plumb said there needs to be adequate screening in place to ensure there’s no threats. Plumb said he also supports the idea of a pathway to citizenship through service in the military. Reed said the immigration conversation needs to start with a secure border in order to protect national security. Reed said he also supports a compromise giving legal status to immigrants.

“It does mean visible barriers, but it also means deploying technology in the 21st century,” Reed said. “Once we fix the border, then we need to move into the issue of what are we going to do with the existing folks here who broke the law.”

In closing, Plumb expressed frustration with the lack of continuity in Congress as Washington, D.C., needs people to fix the issues and improve the quality of life for residents. Reed said he’s looking to create more jobs in the U.S. manufacturing sector while listening to residents and helping them cut through red tape.