PA-8: Candidates Face Off in Round 2 of Back-to-Back Debates

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Just hours after they had last debated one another, Democratic candidates Shaughnessy Naughton and Kevin Strouse met again this afternoon at the Bristol campus of Bucks County Community College.

The debate, moderated by Professor Bill Pezza, focused on nine questions he came up with and set a tight structure for the event, in stark contrast to the forum last night. The event took placed in a tight, packed section of the building’s lobby.

1. Effectiveness, President Obama, and Nancy Pelosi

Right off the bat, Pezza started with a tough three-part question about how the candidates would govern as likely members of the minority party in the U.S. House. Additionally, he inquired whether the candidates would invite President Obama to campaign with them and whether they would vote for Nancy Pelosi as Democratic leader.

Each candidate used their time to talk about their experience building relationships and Pezza followed up on the latter parts of his question.

Both candidates stated that they would welcome the President. Strouse side-stepped the Pelosi inquiry explaining he wasn’t looking past November, while Naughton praised her as an effective, female leader though stopped short of officially pledging her support.

2. Affordable Care Act

Both candidates stated they support the act with reservations, Naughton called it a “first step” while Strouse pointed out that even former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has conceded that the website roll-out could’ve been done better. They also told personal stories of people they know who now have access to healthcare because the of ACA as explanation for why the act is necessary and why they support it.

3. Strengthening the Middle Class

Strouse called strengthening the middle class “the fundamental question of this campaign” and explained that improving the middle class involves education, infrastructure, and removing regulation on small businesses. Naughton also spoke of the importance of preschool and secondary education and mentioned her plan for an “Apollo-like energy program”. Each stated they favor raising the minimum wage.

4. Biggest Weakness

Pezza used this opportunity to ask each candidate about their biggest perceived weaknesses. For Naughton, this was her lack of government experience and for Strouse this was the fact that he only recently moved into the 8th district.

“What has Mike Fitzpatrick accomplished with all his experience in Washington?” Naughton answered. “The idea that you need to have run for office to run for office sounds silly to me.”

Strouse responded that he sought his home because of the schools and housing in the area as well as to be closer to his extended family. Noting his long service in the armed forces and the CIA he explained his move was “the first time in my adult life where I’ve got to pick where I wanted to live.” Therefore, he explained. his decision is a testament to the greatness of the district.

5. How do you fix D.C.?

“There’s so much” Strouse initially joked before focusing on gerrymandering. While Naughton also criticized that practice she set her sights on expanding the electorate.

“The 1% only get 1% of the vote, the 99% of us have to make sure we get out there and vote,” she said.

In a follow-up from Pezza both candidates also indicated they would support open primaries.

6. Civil Liberties vs. National Security

This was undoubtedly the most contentious round of the debate. Both candidates spoke out against overreaches by the NSA yet Naughton was far more critical than Strouse, a former employee in the CIA Counterterrorism Center.

“We shouldn’t be assassinating American citizens overseas,” she stated. “Who is and is not guilty should not be decided by drone strikes.”

Pezza pointed out some students from Harry S. Truman High School that were attending and asked the candidates to address 9/11 since the event has become a distant memory to many young people.

Strouse’s answer was quite extraordinary as it was the first time I’ve ever seen him show emotion as he nearly teared up describing how he learned of the event at boot camp and worried about friends he had in New York City. Naughton described a trip she took to the World Trade Center shortly before 9/11 and transitioned to make a point that the issue with that tragedy was not having insufficient information, but rather being unable to find the information that was there.

Strouse, again a former CIA Counterrorism analyst, seemed to take offense at this. “I think it would be an oversimplification to say 9/11 happened because no one was doing their job,” he said.

Naughton initially backed off, but Strouse went on to say that his opponent’s response was a perfect example of how Congress blames others, particularly intelligence analysts, when things go wrong. Naughton countered that intelligence officials have themselves accepted responsibility for their failure saying “otherwise it wouldn’t have happened.” Overall, it was a tense moment between the two competitors.

7. Social Issues

Pezza took the opportunity to issue a rapid-fire series of questions pertaining to social issues to see what each candidate thought of them. Both candidates assured voters that they are pro-choice and for same-sex marriage. Naughton advocated for common-sense gun control while Strouse urged the decriminalization of marijuana as part of a broad overhaul of prison laws in the U.S.

8. America’s Role in International Relations

When asked about the situation in Ukraine and how they viewed America’s role in the world Naughton and Strouse both affirmed that the U.S. maintain a leadership position. Naughton was a bit more hesitant to rush to action, stating that “patience and diplomacy have worked the best.”

Meanwhile, Strouse expressed the only real criticism of President Obama in the debate when he stated that he felt the President has “pulled back a bit in the world” and that he feels this has been a mistake.

9. What do you wish you were asked?

In an outside-the-box final question, Pezza gave the candidates a chance to answer a question that they wished they were asked.

Strouse took the opportunity to affirm that he believes in global warming and man-made climate change and worries about his children’s future if nothing is done.

Naughton answered with one of the key distinctions she has been trying to make with her opponent, that she supports a permanent ban on fracking in the Delaware River Basin.

Overall Impressions

Altogether, it was an informative, entertaining debate. Moderator Bill Pezza had a lot to do with the smooth nature and clear structure of the event and should be congratulated for that. Naughton struggled with her voice at times, likely the consequence of talking through back-to-back contests. Strouse performed well with the larger crowd and showed more humanity in his answers and demeanor than he has in the past. At the end, Pezza got their commitment to come back as the nominee to debate Rep. Fitzpatrick in the fall, illustrating that ultimately only one of them will take that podium again.

11 Responses

  1. @toots I don’t care where he went to school…his responses were hot air. If you actually listen to what he said he offers no solid plans and instead just tells stories about his kids. Great. I don’t see any deeper understanding of policy. I don’t hear intellectual responses. The only reason he’s able to run is because he’s pals with Patrick Murphy and has a military record. (and God bless him for his time in the service, I’m not knocking him for that).

    He can’t win the general election. As someone with a lot of family in Bucks, he’s going to get slammed for moving to the district and coming off as PatrickMurphy Lite.

    I don’t care for either candidate but I don’t understand the fanfare here. He can’t even post solid numbers against Naughton, who from what I can see doesn’t have party or PAC backing aside from Emily’s list and a handful of smaller groups.

  2. @13thDvoter….if I don’t have ears, than you lack a brain. Your attachment was from one year ago—shortly after he announced his intention to run for Congress. As noted in the article, he was honest in his statement that he has much to learn. A YEAR has gone by since that article, 13thD, and he has studied rigorously ever since. Empty suit? The empty suit excelled at Columbia and Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. Those in academia have a nickname for Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service…the students are SFS…. so effing smart. Oh, but you read the Washington Post, so you would already know that!

  3. @toots I saw the debate as well…if you think he’s the “most knowledgeable” you obviously don’t have ears.

    For a candidate with all the money and DCCC backing, he came off clueless.

    Look no further than this article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/democrats-push-problem-solvers-in-house-contests/2013/04/06/16c02154-9bde-11e2-9a79-eb5280c81c63_story.html

    I don’t have a horse in this race but I really think this guy’s an empty suit.

  4. I almost fell off my chair when Naughton responded to Prof. Pezza’s question regarding 911 and the impact of that horrific attack….Strouse was in boot camp, and Naughton was traveling in a foreign country and I quote “sad the attack was in NYC, after all, I was just there with my niece…. why NYC? I mean why not Chicago?” WTF???? Strouse could have crucified her with that incredibly stupid response…. as I cringed, he remained a gentleman and let those in the audience form their own opinion… way to go Kevin!!

  5. hey clutch–you state Strouse is doing “nothing” at Tech2Serve? I know the students who have benefitted from his “nothing” would have a different opinion based on FACT and not an idiotic statement from a lacky fof Pat Deon’s (oops! I mean, Mike Fitzpatrick’s) powerful slush fund.

  6. Make that ….

    teach2serve.ORG

    not .com

    Strouse is simply getting paid to do nothing by the deep pocketed money boys while he runs for congress.

    It’s basically a smarmy way the DNC shadow people funnel $ to their ‘chosen’ candidates.

  7. Strouse was busy talking about issues at the debate while Ms. Naughton was probably too busy focusing on well ah…um to raise some of Mr. Cargo’s concerns

  8. Strouse is already trying to game the system with his no-show job that is funded by campaign donors tied to DNC lackey boy Patrick Murphy and his slush fund homies who dwell in the bowels of the DNC’s candidate-buying department.

    Dont take my word for it. Ask him what he does for the $ he gets funneled from the phony teach2serve.com office that just magically opened up in New Hope.

    He is reported to be the only employee and does absolutely nothing in exchange for big $.

    Its a ‘legal’ way to funnel $ to candidates and get around campaign laws.

    Cant believe Shaughnessey didnt bring it up. Guess she doesnt want to offend the powerful slush fund DNC types who are funneling funny money to their ‘preferred’ candidates.

  9. If Ms. Naughton wants to fix congress she should probably start with understanding that when the leader of the majority party is seeking an office in the House of Representatives its called “Speaker of the House” not “Majority Leader”

  10. He should be well prepared since he is a professional candidate with no real job.

  11. I was in attendence and clearly Strouse was the most knowledgable and studied candidate. He obviously came prepared with a wealth of knowledge on all subjects important to our district. He is not a pushover and will go to Washington with the energy, intelligence and morality that is lacking in our current Representative. Naughton is sweet, and I wish her well as President of her family business.

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