Dozens convened on the afternoon of Tuesday, Feb. 25, at the Epstein Campus at Lower Bucks in Bristol, where Christina Finello and Skylar Hurwitz – the remaining Democratic congressional candidates for the 1st District – participated in a debate.
Questions were submitted by students and faculty from Bucks County Community College, which is celebrating 10 years hosting political debates. Bill Pezza, faculty member of the Social and Behavioral Sciences Department, moderated the event.
The candidates were each given two minutes to introduce themselves in an opening statement. Finello, who was born in Bristol Township, raised in Warminster and currently resides in Ivyland with her husband and two daughters, is centering her campaign around her local roots and serving as a voice for Bucks County residents.
“There are many people in this district like myself who feel the people in Washington aren’t talking about the issues that they deal with day to day,” she said.
Hurwitz, a small business owner who lives in New Hope with his wife and dog, is focusing his efforts on a Fair Tax Platform, which addresses everything from income inequality to environmental issues.
“We see CEOs getting paid more than 300 times what their median worker is being paid at major corporations,” he said. “It’s about real structural changes to this system that so many of us are sick and tired of.”
The first topic up for debate was healthcare, with Hurwitz in favor of Medicare for All and Finello supporting a public option like the Affordable Care Act. In Hurwitz’s opinion, healthcare is a human right, and to ensure all Americans receive it, he would implement a 4-percent payroll tax, which he said would result in 30 percent savings for most average families.
Finello, who serves as acting director of the Bucks County Department of Housing and Human Services, said making large changes in government is a process. Rather than get rid of the Affordable Care Act completely, she suggested fixing what doesn’t work.
The next set of questions revolved around environmental issues. Both were in agreement that investment into alternative energy and workforce retraining is necessary. Hurwitz discussed his version of the Green New Deal, which would dedicate $1 trillion over five years to the latter. For example, workers who are currently welding pipelines would learn how to weld solar panels on rooftops.
When asked which Democratic presidential candidate is the most electable, Finello declined to answer at this time while Hurwitz stated Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Each then expressed why they are electable to local voters.
“I am this district. The stories that I talk about, the experiences that I have are the very same experiences of the people of this district,” Finello said.
“This campaign was designed from day one to beat Brian Fitzpatrick and hold him accountable for what he did with his tax vote in 2017, hold him accountable for his deregulation of the environment, hold him accountable for the funding that’s been leaving our public school system,” Hurwitz said.
Regarding the economy, the candidates agreed that it’s not doing as well as the current administration says. Hurwitz said it’s not being graded properly to accurately reflect reality, which sees Americans working more jobs and hours, yet their wages remain stagnant. Finello echoed his sentiment.
“The best metric for a good economy in my mind is a well-functioning middle class. And right now, the middle class is shrinking because a lot of the bills, including the tax bill that Brian Fitzpatrick voted for, are not helpful to the middle class,” she said, explaining how a single mother in Bucks County must earn $21.60 an hour to comfortably rent an apartment. “People living paycheck to paycheck are only a month or two away from being homeless sometimes.”
With the Democratic party losing many of its traditional blue-collar voters, Pezza asked the candidates how they’ll get them back during this election. Finello said she’d utilize her area upbringing to share their concerns in Washington, while Hurwitz shared how he’d be upfront about soon-to-disappear industries, such as natural gas, and work with them on next steps.
As for the alarming trend of increasing debt incurred by students, Hurwitz suggested a wealth tax of .5 percent on the income of individuals with $32 million or more. Finello is in favor of a loan forgiveness program with fewer regulations. According to her, only 1 percent of participants actually have their loans forgiven.
Finello and Hurwitz shared similar perspectives on how Congress must take back its war powers, something written in the Constitution; that America is less respected by other nations; and that the decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear peace agreement was a bad move.
The two gave closing statements.
“We have not had the seat in this district for a very long time, and it’s high time that we take it back,” Finello said. “The people of this district don’t merely need a congressperson, they need a representative in Congress, and I want to be that representative. I’ve walked the walk, I’ve talked the talk. But I want to be able to go to Washington and inject a dose of Bucks County reality.”
“It’s going to take every single one of us getting out there, knocking on doors of our neighbors, friends and families if we want to see the type of changes that I’ve been talking about,” Hurwitz said. “It’s not going to happen from the top down. This is our chance to be a part of something more than just ourselves. This is our chance to fight for that future we all believe we have a right to as citizens.”
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org