Mickayla Miller, Editor in Chief
Jared Hameloth, News Editor
Monday night, incumbent congressman Lloyd Smucker (R) debated a starry-eyed political newcomer Jess King (D) at the Winter Performing Arts Center on Millersville University’s campus. The crowd was alive and well, the live room filled nearly to the brim. The audience ranged from older college students to elderly people, mostly the latter.
Barbara Hough Roda, the esteemed community liaison from LNP Media, and Tom Baldrige, President of the Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce, moderated the event sponsored by each of their organizations.
King and Smucker are going head-to-head to determine who will end up representing Pennsylvania’s 11th District in the House of Representatives.Their debate at Millersville was just one of many in their campaigns for congress.
The energy in the room was undeniable: when Jess King walked out to the main stage at the beginning of the debate, she was met with booming cheers and a standing ovation. Several times, throughout the debate, Roda and Baldrige had to ask the crowd to quiet down after crowd members clapped after many of her talking points.
The following coverage of the debate will be in a topic-by-topic format. We will not cover every topic they debated, but will offer main points from their platforms on key topics. A commentary either criticizing or expanding upon each candidates thoughts will be presented after a summary of their positions. These commentaries reflect the views of each author and how they perceived how each candidate performed during the debate.
Jared: Both candidates quoted the same study that the CBO put out, but both drew very different conclusions. At one point Smucker said that Americans will get “access to the healthcare they deserve.” But it seemed to be in a negative sense, almost hinting at different levels of access that different groups of people should have. King remained committed to the idea that healthcare is a human right, and that the government should provide that right. Many feel that everyone should have access to healthcare, but that the government should not provide it, because the government won’t have an efficient system. To support this idea, Smucker asked the crowd if they would ever willingly go into the DMV for any reason.
Mickayla: The health sector has contributed $62,000 to Smucker’s campaign, according to OpenSecrets. Nearly a fifth of this money came from Aetna, a Pennsylvania-based health insurance company. In addition, $12,000 came from big pharmaceutical companies. These are the specific organizations that a single-payer healthcare system would seek to eliminate. While Smucker acted as though he had a grasp on what a single-payer system would do to the economy, he failed to disclose the interest groups which had paid him a large sum of money for his campaign. He then argued that we need to create an “environment of competition,” which would lower the prices across the board. Free-market healthcare doesn’t work.
Jared: When talking about tax reform, Smucker said that the bill Trump passed is working, but didn’t go into more specifics as to why, other than that it “puts more money into the pockets of the taxpayers.” He seemed to dodge the specific question about the reform and rather focused on unemployment numbers of minorities and women.
Mickayla: Marginalized groups are always the center of the GOP’s platform. The party itself constantly wants to gain relevance by using logical fallacies to target their audience’s inexperience with the subject at hand. Smucker offered little to no response as to how the tax reform will impact people in the future. Paul Ryan tweeted about women in Lancaster receiving more money because of the tax reform, but all in all it totalled out to a few dollars more per week. Yet, on his website, and in the campaign, he refused to talk more intricately about the process.
Mickayla: While we would ideally benefit from a community owned energy system, the idea of that happening anytime soon is a little hard to wrap my head around. That said, it’s worth a try. In the debate, Smucker talked about the growth of the economy due to “allowed economic activity with drilling.” King rightfully mentioned his contributions from gas and oil companies. According to OpenSecrets, a online political database, the cut-and-dry donations Smucker received from the gas and oil companies (Exxon, Chevron, etc) alone totaled $28,500. While oil production can spark economic growth to a certain extent, it’s hard to deny the negative impacts on the environment. And, when you have companies feeding you funds, it’s kind of hard to say no.
Mickayla: As a person who grew up on poverty, Smucker’s implication that there are people out there who are able-bodied but refuse to work (to presumably just collect a check) is both insulting and wrong. Issues as big as poverty can’t be summed up with a person’s ability to work; it’s intersectional, it’s dynamic, it’s all-encompassing. Personal business aside, Smucker frequently fell back on the idea of the tax reform he supported ending up with a surplus of jobs. Neither candidate really touched on this topic to the extent they could have, but King touched on the intersectionality by offering examples of aspects holding people back from working (i.e; lack of transportation, expensive childcare).
Jared: King mentioned affordable housing as a way to alleviate poverty. Housing developers will never willingly pay to create housing for low-income people. Government incentives are an important part of the equation in helping fight poverty. But to her point that the loss of manufacturing jobs are the cause for increase poverty in Lancaster: there are many other factors than that. Yes, people have lost jobs from the closing of factories, but it is important to realize that the lack of wage growth for “regular” jobs plays a major part.
Jared: It was surprising to see the way they handled this section of the debate. King initially made an attempt to reach across the isle, saying that it’s all of our “shared destiny” to figure out a solution to the problem of undocumented immigrants. Smucker agreed with this idea, but then went into talking about the wall and the need to stop undocumented immigration through the southern border. King said that the idea of a wall is just a “political pawn used to divide us.” Depending on what side you are on, approving of the wall means that either you want drugs and rapists to come over the border, or that you are a heartless monster who doesn’t want to take in any refugees. There is a bigger issue in the immigration debate than just putting up a physical barricade next to Mexico.
Mickayla: Unless you’re Native American, you’re an immigrant. It doesn’t matter what your race or nationality is. Smucker’s claims of less-regulated borders leading to more drugs and human traffickers is insulting to the many amazing immigrants who have called the United States their home. Multiple times, Smucker tried invalidating King’s argument by saying that she wants to dismantle the Immigration & Customs Enforcement, to which she replied that she never implied such a thing. Immigration is a touchy subject: people who think like you are the only right ones, and people who don’t think like you are wrong. All the Smucker/King debate answered about their stances was that they disagreed on most things, but agreed that families should not be separated at the border.
The debate ended with Barbara Hough Roda reminding the audience that the deadline to register to vote is Tuesday, Oct. 9. As the room was emptying, conversations about the debate topics started up between those leaving. They were talking about how each candidate did and were connecting with each other over their preferred candidate. After Roda ended the debate, a large portion of the audience erupted into a chant for King, chanting “Jess! Jess! Jess!”
If that doesn’t sum up the debate, nothing will.