In Final Debate, Boockvar & Fitzpatrick Compete for Moderates
Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) and Democratic challenger Kathy Boockvar went head to head today in their third and final debate in Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District. While the event covered a broad range of topics, the prominent issues included the country’s staggering national deficit, unemployment, and tax reform.
The debate’s questions were compiled by the Bucks County Chamber of Commerce, the League of Women Voters, and the citizens who attended the debate.
Both candidates showed the playbook for winning an election in Bucks County: moderation. Audience members saw just how far from party lines the candidates are willing to stray for a vote.
Taking on an incumbent like Fitzpatrick isn’t easy and Boockvar introduced herself a, “long-time public servant,” committed to taking a, “people-focused approach,” to today’s political issues.
As expected, the candidates worked perhaps too hard to appeal to moderates in an effort to cinch any remaining undecided voters with statements such as, “I don’t look at things as Democratic ideas or Republican ideas; I want all the ideas on the table.” (Boockvar)
A crucial economic question asked if the United States is on a “fiscal cliff” and both candidates had similar overall messages that criticized the management of our national deficit but differed in their opinions on how to foster economic growth.
Fitzpatrick denied that we are on a “fiscal cliff” just yet and cited the current European economic climate as a warning for the US to move quickly and resolve the outstanding budget.
“It is critically important that we deal with those issues today rather than wait until we’re on the cliff… I think a fair combination of smart reductions in government spending together with pro-growth economic policies with ways to raise revenue combined with comprehensive tax reform would be the correct approach.”
Boockvar agreed that hesitancy will get the country nowhere. “This is one of the examples of why a broken Congress that’s not working together to move things forward for all of us has consequences for us… We should never be waiting until the brink of an emergency to make the hard choices that need to be made,” she said.
She did express opposing views about how to cultivate economic growth, condemning the Ryan budget as unfair to average Americans. “We need to be looking at smart cost-cuts, cost-cuts that aren’t on the back of the middle class, and aren’t on the backs of seniors.”
On social issues, the moderator posed only a general question asking what could be done to aid victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Fitzpatrick cited his record of pro-bono work in his private practice that catered to such issues, though Boockvar was quick to challenge him citing his lack of support for Planned Parenthood as well as one version of the Violence Against Women Act. Disappointingly, limiting social issues to 90 seconds did not allow either candidate enough time to even begin to engage the topic.
The most heated part of the debate came when discussing the proposition of a Constitutional Amendment that would ban corporate donations to campaigns and overturn the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United. While not a top issue for voters, campaign finance has been a frequent topic in this race.
Boockvar criticized Fitzpatrick’s campaign for using corporate money and running a negative campaign. “I think Citizens United is one of the worst Supreme Court decisions we have ever seen… It started with TV in that at the same time it raises the costs exponentially, it deteriorates the message down to zero, or in some cases lower than zero” she said taking a swing at her opponent’s campaign. “Citizens United made it such that the voices of individuals are drowned out by the corporate voices and the super PAC voices.”
Fitzpatrick was less receptive to reform on such a grand scale, stating, “Essentially that’s a Constitutional Amendment modifying for all time the First Amendment right of free speech.” He then cited his own campaign finance reform which would eliminate all out of state, out of district contributions and require that all donations be made by those who could vote in that particular election.
During the final third of the debate foreign policy was addressed, however incompletely, with yes or no questions about US support for Israel as well as sanctions on Iran. Boockvar and Fitzpatrick had unsurprisingly unanimous answers.
Despite both candidates stating that the Affordable Care Act is in itself, flawed, it proved to be a source of contention for the candidates when discussing government regulation. Similarly, education funding and management was mentioned. Fitzpatrick argued that more money doesn’t mean better education and is in favor of reform at the local level. Boockvar was in favor of increased federal funding but placated those afraid of big-government by saying “the last thing we need is a top-down approach.”
With a favored incumbent like Fitzpatrick, Boockvar needed a decisive win for the debate to be a game changer. Today’s debate was more like a draw, which plays to the incumbent’s advantage.