Lehigh Valley

Pennsylvania's 7th district candidates face off in debate

To air on WFMZ-TV's Business Matters Oct. 15, 22

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - The three candidates running for Pennsylvania’s newly redistricted 7th Congressional District squared off in a WFMZ-TV “Business Matters” debate Tuesday.

Tony Ianelli of the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce hosted the debate, which featured topics ranging from the economy and health care to the recent hearings on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.


Democrat Susan Wild, Republican Marty Nothstein and Libertarian Tim Silfies are competing for the seat recently vacated by Republican Charlie Dent. The district includes portions of Lehigh, Northampton and Monroe counties.

The full debate will be broadcasted in two parts on Oct. 15 and 22 at 7:30 p.m. The election will be held on Nov. 6.

Ianelli opened the debate with the economy.

Nothstein said the economy has been performing well since Republican President Donald Trump took office two years ago.

Wild said the current economy is going well, but only if “you’re already wealthy.” The economy is “leaving working families behind,” she said.

Many workers are underemployed and need to work two or three jobs to make ends meet, Wild said.

Nothstein said markets, not the federal government, should dictate the minimum wage. He said a minimum wage increase would hurt consumers by causing consumer prices to rise.

Silfies added the government needs to focus more on balancing the budget, saying the government has been “spending us into oblivion.”

Businesses would have trouble hiring more workers with a higher minimum wage, he said.

Wild said the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is too low, calling it “unconscionable.” She said a phased-in increase would help the economy by putting more money in the pockets of workers.

The candidates aired their views about the Affordable Care Act.

Nothstein said heath care is not affordable, adding his family has trouble paying their health care bills. 
He said he would like to see more statewide competition between insurance companies and efforts made to lower the cost of health care.

Government should stay out of health care, he said, acknowledging the act is the “law of the land.”

Wild said the act needs to be protected, including making sure insurance companies continue to cover people with preexisting conditions.

Nothstein said he supports the law’s provision making insurance companies pay for those with preexisting conditions, adding he also supports allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26.

Silfies said responsibility for providing health care should lie with states, not the federal government.

The candidates spoke about the recent hearings on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, which featured sexual misconduct allegations against him by three women, including Christine Blasey Ford.
The U.S. Senate narrowly confirmed Kavanaugh after Dr. Ford gave testimony detailing the allegations against him.

Nothstein said both political parties mishandled the hearings, which he called “embarrassing” and a “circus.” He expressed sympathy for Kavanaugh, who he said had to put his personal life in the public spotlight. Kavanaugh was “well suited” to be on the Supreme Court, Nothstein said.

Wild said Dr. Ford also had to put her life in the spotlight, adding Ford has not yet been able to return home due to receiving death threats. The recent hearings showed a “lack of civility and proper discourse” within the federal government, she said.

Silfies also said both parties mishandled the situation. Supreme Court justices, who currently serve on the court for life, should have term limits, he said.

Nothstein said he could relate to Kavanaugh’s situation in light of recent misconduct allegations he himself has faced, which have since been cleared up. He called the allegations a “political hit job” which were “devastating” to himself and his family.

Wild said her extensive experiences as an attorney would help her if elected.

Nothstein said the country did not need any more lawyers in Washington, to which Wild shot back legal experience is useful in a job where you are responsible for crafting laws.

On immigration, Silfies and Wild said the country’s immigration system was not working.

More legal immigrants are needed so they can contribute to the economy, Silfies said.

The country needed a “comprehensive, bipartisan approach” to immigration and should reform the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, Wild said.

President Trump’s proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border would be a “ridiculous waste of taxpayer money,” Wild said.

Nothstein said the country did not have a broken immigration system but simply needed to better enforce existing immigration laws.

All three candidates agreed too much money is spent on political races, with Wild calling for campaign finance reform.

Accepting corporate money to pay for a campaign is an “inherent conflict of interest,” Wild said, adding she does not accept corporate Political Action Committee money.

Silfies countered Wild by pointing out she does accept money from some PACs, including from Planned Parenthood.

Wild said she accepted money from “value-based” PACs, such as those focusing on the environment or reproductive rights.

Candidates need a “disgusting” amount of money to run a campaign, Nothstein said. Candidates should focus on raising money only from sources within the district, he said.

The candidates all acknowledged high costs for college.

Wild said the nation was creating a “generation of debtors” who could not afford to buy a house and start a family. The country should work on lowering costs for those entering college and restructure the debt of those who have already taken on loans, she said.

Nothstein also stressed the need to restructure college debt, adding students could be steered to skilled labor jobs rather than four-year colleges.

Silfies closed by saying the government is dysfunctional and needs a third-party candidate to bring “something different” to the table.

Nothstein said if voters wanted to continue having a strong economy and seeing positive results which have been achieved in the last two years, they should elect him.

Wild said she would try to raise wages if elected and would “answer only to you,” the voters, not to corporate interests.

The debate will air in two parts, on Oct. 15 and 22 at 7:30 p.m., on WFMZ-TV's "Business Matters."

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