Valerie Arkoosh’s Surprise Question – Preparedness as only Non-Politician
Arkoosh’s surprise question was one she was completely prepared to answer. As the only non-politician in the race, some in the audience and in the district held concerns that she didn’t have what it takes to fight these legislative battles. Although she is not an elected official, this is not Arkoosh’s first time to the policy rodeo. She was an integral part of discussions about the Affordable Care Act. Arkoosh made the fair point that Washington is full of politicians and she would bring a new perspective to Congress. She told the audience about her degree in Public Health, ensuring that she is not a novice on policy discussions, and as a woman, she would be the only female physician elected to Congress if she won.
Staying Connected to Constituents
Boyle cited his constituent services as a state representative, according to him, ranked second only to his brother, State Representative Kevin Boyle. Leach questioned the merits of part of Davies question, in which Davies implied that fundraising would be critical to being re-elected. Leach brought up the role of gerrymandering in ensuring that whoever won this race would have the seat as long as they wanted it, something he is very much against and has spoken out on in the past. That being said, Leach discussed his high quality constituent services, the fact that he engages people on issues rather than sending a letter that basically says “let’s agree to disagree”, and his connection to both the Montgomery County part of the district and the North Philadelphia section as a child.
Margolies’ answer was a little more strange; she cited her ongoing relationships with older members of Congress whom she served with in the early 90s, rather than being connected to the district and constituents, which was the question asked. She brought up that WCI received funding from USAID, the US Department of Defense, and the State Department.
Arkoosh took a swipe at Margolies, the (weirdly) perceived frontrunner, saying that first off, she has been to all of the debates. She discussed how it was important to her that all of her campaign staff had health insurance, that they have multiple campaign offices throughout the legislative district, and that she has received a total of 33 Democratic Committee endorsements.
Leach stated he was for comprehensive immigration reform, and told audience members that it was a moral, economic, and a security issue. He discussed legislation he wrote to prevent immigration checks like those seen in Arizona by police, after a very controversial law was passed.
Margolies basically told the audience she agreed with what Leach said, emphasizing that it was an economic issue.
Arkoosh discussed the need for the passage of the DREAM Act. She said as a congresswoman she’d fight to reexamine deportation policies and spend the money used to deport individuals to expand work and student visa programs.
Boyle talked about his status as a first generation American, with Irish American immigrant parents. He also brought up that our policies for undocumented immigrants need to be redesigned in tandem with our legal immigration system, so basically some of the things that Arkoosh and Leach had said.
Margolies said that she supported the automatic weapons ban that was around in her congressional days, as well as the Brady law. She wrapped up her comments on the subject very quickly with very little else to say, especially as the first person to answer the question and said, “We must do something. We must not be afraid of the NRA.”
Arkoosh invoked her occupation as a physician and public health expert as well as her role as a mother to talk about gun violence. She said that background checks are needed, an assault weapons ban is needed, and that there is no need for weapons with high capacity magazines.
Boyle cited his endorsement from the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police, then recited the statistic that 50% of all crime-related guns in urban areas are purchased through straw purchases, and that he’d start from there as congressman.
When it was Leach’s turn, he discussed his role in pushing for a one gun per month law in Pennsylvania, the antidote to the straw purchase problem that Boyle discussed. He also cited his desire for all gun reforms on the table, an unsurprising answer for someone proud of his F rating from the National Rifle Association.
McCutcheon v FEC SCOTUS decision
On the recent SCOTUS decision to remove limits on overall campaign donations, the discussion got pretty interesting. While Arkoosh, Boyle, and Leach all made typical statements on the need for public financing of elections and a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United SCOTUS case, Margolies made another off the wall statement, saying that all the candidates should say no to independent expenditures. Dave Davies chuckled along with some of the sharper audience members, then explained that in principle, independent expenditures are independent for the sake that candidates have no control over them. Her idea indicates one of a few things, (1) Margolies thinks it is okay to interact with organizations making independent expenditures, (2) Margolies purely doesn’t understand campaign finance legal issues, or (3) both.
Leach wrapped up by saying that he is a progressive with a record of fighting battles including the ones that are morally right but not popular. Arkoosh painted herself as an ally, not a politician. Boyle talked about his blue collar roots, and this is the section where things got really strange with Margolies. She chose this moment to attack each of her three opponents by name. She attacked Boyle for his mixed reproductive rights record and his role in education privatization (somewhat fairly), then moved on to Arkoosh, whom she attacked for supporting the idea of a public option for healthcare reform, a fairly popular policy idea in this particular audience. When she got to Leach, it was the weirdest part of all. She attacked him for being a supporter of medical marijuana, and as her voice gave out for the hundredth time, she told the audience of a young mother who was killed in a vehicular collision over the weekend, by a driver under the influence of marijuana. Leach’s medicinal marijuana proposal focuses mainly on the treatment of children with a specific type of seizure disorder, so not only was her attack off base, the audience loudly and audibly laughed at her.
Well there you have it. I’ve now recapped the most important points of the whole debate. In the next few days I’ll write a piece about my personal opinions on the race, but I want to give people time to digest all of this information.