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Candidates meet the public in First District debate


Approximately 200 people filled a room in the Bucks County Administration Building during a recent forum to hear the three Democratic candidates running for Pennsylvania’s first Congressional district discuss a range of issues and answer the public’s questions.

Candidates Christina Finello of Ivyland, Skylar Hurwitz of New Hope, and Debbie Wachspress of Lower Makefield, fielded questions on immigration, climate change and income inequality, among other matters, from questions submitted prior to the event. Candidate Judi Reiss had pulled out of the race. The Democrats are vying for the opportunity to challenge Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick in November.

Responding to a question about immigration reform, Hurwitz said it’s important to consider why people are fleeing to the U.S. Among the causes, he said, is one often overlooked – climate change.

Many immigrants, he said, are desperate to escape flooding, droughts and the resulting loss of agricultural land. “What’s needed is nation-building abroad,” said Hurwitz, adding, “I’m firmly against a border wall.”

All the candidates expressed a need to restore America’s leadership role in the world.

“We need to get back to a position where we were before this administration,” said Finello. “Trump is acting unilaterally ... endangering our country and the world. Our first priority is to win back the support of our allies.”

Wachspress agreed. “Our standing in the world has plummeted ... it’s sad,” she said. Addressing climate change, she noted, “”is an opportunity to lead the world again.”

Hurwitz, 27, told the audience. “my generation has been at war since we were in fourth grade ... and we have nothing to show for it.” Americans, he said. “are at our best when we help lead the world.”

Noting the billions of dollars spent on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hurwitz said, the country would be better served investing in renewable energy and deteriorating infrastructure. “We just need the political will.”

Moving from fossil fuels to renewable energy and enhancing public transportation can be job creators, said Wachspress. “There’s much that can be done ... we are not short on scientific breakthroughs, we are short on political will.”

President Trump is dismantling water and air protection regulations to the nation’s harm, said Finello. “We must immediately return the protections,” she stressed.

When asked,”what domestic issue keeps you up at night?” the candidates responded in a number of ways.

“So many things,” said Wachspress. “Fitzpatrick enabling Trump –he’s not a moderate. People not paying close enough attention to how he’s voting.”

Fitzpartick’s vote not to impeach the president, said Wachspress, “was the moral question of his career. He made the wrong decision.”

Finello focused on the “shrinking middle class,” saying the tax cut and other “poor economic decisions are forcing people back to their kitchen tables “to try and figure out how to pay their bills.” The minimum wage is too low, she added.

Hurwiz said starting a family keeps him and his wife awake. “We have student debt, and can’t see being able to buy a house for a long, long time.”

And, he noted, student debt is multi-generational, affecting parents who have helped their children finance their education and are now unable to retire, as they had hoped to.

The event was sponsored by Bucks Voices and Indivisible Lambertville-New Hope.