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Candidates for 13th Congressional District meet in debate

Written by Rachel McDevitt | Oct 23, 2018 6:07 PM
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Republican John Joyce (left) and Democrat Brent Ottaway (right) debate at Cross Keys Village in New Oxford, Adams County on Monday, October 22, 2018. (Photo: Rachel McDevitt/WITF)

(New Oxford) -- The candidates for Pennsylvania's 13th Congressional District have faced off in a debate in Adams County.

The two first-time candidates met Monday night at Cross Keys Village retirement community in New Oxford.

The district stretches from western Pennsylvania to the midstate and includes all of Adams and Franklin counties and part of Cumberland County.

When asked how the candidates would help improve the economy and protect United States jobs, Republican Dr. John Joyce turned to his first priority. 

"The main impetus for me running for this seat would be to work with the president and with Congress to see health care--a fair market plan," said Joyce, a practicing dermatologist. 

Joyce described a fair market plan as one that allows health care plans to cross state lines and lets people pick and choose exactly what their insurance covers. He did not specifially address how this would help grow the economy. 

Democrat Brent Ottaway, a college communications professor, said he would work to improve infrastructure. That includes roads and bridges as well as the power grid and internet access.

"And then you have an environment that lends itself to entrepreneurship, to business startups and growth once the infrastructure is improved," Ottaway said. 

On the topic of health care, Ottaway said he wants to work across the aisle to fix the Affordable Care Act, because an issue so large will take input from both parties. 

The debate gave the candidates two minutes each to answer a series of questions ranging from health care to immigration to foriegn policy. They could offer a rebuttal if their opponent mentioned them specifically in an answer.

The only rebuttal of the event came after a question about campaign finance.

Joyce said he was proud to have contributions from everyone from the NRA to constituents he meets at church. He said he sees no need for any modifications to campaign finance laws.

Ottaway said he sees a need for reform. He has promised to refuse contributions from political action committees.

"I am comfortable running a nontraditional campaign in that no one will own me in any respect," Ottaway said. 

Ottaway added individuals who can only make small donations don't have much of a voice when corporations and PACs give millions of dollars to politicians, which caused Joyce to jump in.

"Every voter, every member of new Pennsylvania 13 has a voice and has the right to be listened to by me. That's my pledge," Joyce said. 

In campaign finance reports, Joyce reported $1.3 million in contributions, including about $147,000 from PACs, by June 30. He has loaned his campaign about $900,000.

At the same point in the year, Ottaway had raised about $10,000 in small donations.

Ottaway, who said he was registered Republican for most of his voting life, presents himself as a moderate option for the district. He and Joyce agreed decisions on education should be made at the local, not federal level. They both want to protect Social Security and Medicare and defend the Second Amendment.

However, Ottaway said he feels there is room for "reasonable restrictions" on guns, such as universal background checks. Joyce said he will not look for any changes to the right to bear arms. 

The candidates differ widely when it comes to President Donald Trump's proposal for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border (Joyce supports, Ottaway opposes) and if the federal government should fund the development of renewable energy sources (Joyce said there's no need, Ottaway said absolutely).

On the topic of women's reproductive rights, Ottaway said he thinks "early-term abortion needs to be available. It needs to be safe, and it should be rare." He also said there can be improvements in sex education and making contraceptives available. Joyce said he "looks forward to the day when Roe v. Wade is overturned."

On whether they would vote to protect special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Joyce said no and that he thinks "this investigation has gone on too long." Ottaway said he doesn't expect it to be necesary, but he would vote to protect the investigation, because "the American people deserve to find out the truth."

The candidates are scheduled to debate a final time at 6:30 p.m. on October 30th, at the Cumberland 9/12 Patriots Forum, 177 Carlisle Springs Road, Carlisle.

A video of the full debate can be found here.

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