Lehigh Valley

Republican candidates for Congress in Pennsylvania's 17th District face off in debate

WIND GAP, Pa - Three candidates vying for the Republican Party's nomination in Pennsylvania's 17th Congressional district election squared off in their first public debate Tuesday.

Held at the American Legion Post in Wind Gap, the debate had candidates Matt Connolly, David Moylan and Matthew Dietz discuss topics ranging from energy to government regulation to balancing the budget, with each taking the opportunity to state their dissatisfaction with the current state of government.

Over the course of the debate, all three candidates voiced their intent to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which they say has hamstrung the country's economy and healthcare system.

"The Affordable Care Act is destroying the best medical system in the world," said David Moylan, a Schuylkill County physician. "The sooner we can wind down Obamacare, the better off we'll be."

Matthew Dietz cautioned though that such a move would be difficult to pull off without an overwhelming majority in Congress and that other alternatives should be explored.

"Even if we try to repeal the ACA, we're not going to have enough votes to overcome a presidential veto," said the former commercial pilot. "I'd like to put legislation forward that allows states to opt out of the ACA."

Matthew Connolly meanwhile took a strong stance against what he characterized as a repeated failure to balance the budget on the part of the Obama administration.

"There is no long term planning in this government," he said. "As a CEO and owner of a couple of businesses, I understand how budgets work."

During discussion of energy, candidates spoke about a need to reinforce coal usage to maximize the district's natural resources.

"The energy sector is a major player," said Dietz. "[In our district] we are blessed with coal."

All three candidates said they did not fully believe in global warming.

Candidates also took aim at perceived over-taxation, with Moylan and Dietz citing the inheritance tax and Connolly naming capital gains as current economic deterrents.

The winner of the May Republican primary elections will face off against incumbent Democrat Matthew Cartwright, and any third party and independent candidates in November's general election.

"He is going to be one formidable juggernaut for a candidate," said Moylan of Cartwright's reelection bid. "If he's ever going to be knocked out, this is the time it has to be done."

Freshman Congressman Cartwright is the sole Democratic incumbent in the region seeking reelection this year, with the other -- Allyson Schwartz -- opting to run for governor instead.

He has held the seat in Pennsylvania's 17th District since being elected in 2012.

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