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Candidates for Congress debate in Bucks County

Published On: Apr 15 2014 05:15:24 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 16 2014 05:13:57 AM CDT
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Bob Kovach/CNN

BRISTOL TWP., Pa. -

Democratic primary candidates Kevin Strouse and Shaughnessy Naughton faced off for their second debate Tuesday afternoon as they continue to vie for their party’s nomination to represent Pa. District 8 in Congress..

The debate, held at Bucks County Community College’s Bristol Township campus, featured numerous topics ranging from healthcare to the status of middle class to the U.S.’s involvement overseas.

The two candidates met for their first debate Monday night in Bensalem.

In his opening remarks, Strouse expressed concern over the state of politics in Washington, while Naughton presented herself as a stark contrast to incumbent Republican Mike Fitzpatrick, whose seat as representative of Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional district will be challenged in November.

The Congressional district includes Bucks County and parts of Montgomery County.

“I’m running for Congress because I’m worried about the country I’m raising my children in” said Strouse. “Our biggest challenge right now is Congress.”

Strouse, 34, a former Army Ranger and CIA officer, stressed the importance of collaboration in Congress.

“We need to focus on the issues where we have shared agreements so we can make progress” said Strouse, citing veterans’ services and small-business growth as to paths to compromise in politics.

A former chemist and small-business owner, Naughton, 35, said she would provide a “fresh perspective” to Washington.

“Women make up 51% of the population yet we only have 21% of the representation” she said. ”I’m not saying you should vote for me because I’m a woman. I do think [though] that we bring a different perspective.”

During the debate, candidates were given the opportunity to respond to criticisms they have faced so far in the campaign -- namely Strouse’s lack of experience living in the district and Naughton’s lack of experience in office.

Naughton did so by asserting that her time as a small business owner has allowed her to create the jobs that politicians often promise, using the opportunity to take a jab at the incumbent Republican.

“What has Mike Fitzpatrick accomplished for us with all his years in government?” said Naughton. “The idea that you need to have run for Congress to run for Congress sounds a little silly to me.”

Strouse reaffirmed his dedication to the region and its people.

“This is the first time in my life that I’ve had the opportunity to pick where I wanted to live, and I chose here” said Strouse. “We love it here.”

Over the course of the debate, both candidates reaffirmed their support for universal healthcare, marriage equality, a minimum wage raise and international diplomacy while also stressing the importance of investment in education and infrastructure.

Both also repudiated government’s influence on the purportedly shrinking middle-class.

“We need to reform our tax policy” Naughton said, criticizing the fact that some corporations receive lower borrowing interest rates than college students on their loans. The candidate went on to cite investment in energy and education as potential ways to grow he middle glass.

The exchange became heated when the candidates were asked about their reflections on the September 11th terrorist attacks and how they have shaped civil liberties in this country.

Naughton insinuated that the attacks could have been prevented had the information been accessed sooner, to which Strouse, a former intelligence officer, took strong exception. Naughton later apologized and retracted her remarks.

In their remaining time, the two candidates took the opportunity to speak to some of the other issues currently facing Congress, with Strouse voicing his support for decriminalizing marijuana and reforming the criminal justice system and Naughton advocating a federal ban on fracking in the Delaware River basin.

Questions for the debate were fielded from faculty, staff and students of Bucks County Community College’s three campuses.

Moderator William Pezza of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences extended an invitation for another debate once the primary has passed.

“We’d like to extend an invitation to the winner of this contest to come back and debate [Fitzpatrick] in the fall,” said Pezza.

The Democratic primary elections will be held on May 20, with the winner moving on to face incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick in the general election on November 4.