Republican Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle and Green Party candidate Ursula Rozum disagreed on nearly everything during their hour-long debate Thursday night in Granby.
Everything, that is, except for one thing: Dan Maffei should have been there.
The Democratic candidate for Congress isn’t taking part in the four town hall debates Buerkle set up. Nonetheless, a chair was left for him and his name was on a card on the table.
His absence was “a dereliction of duties and reprehensible,” said Buerkle.
The only national poll of the race, by Siena College, found Buerkle and Maffei in a dead heat, with Rozum pulling about 7% support, much of it presumed to be coming at Maffei’s expense.
On the issues:
Rape: “Rape is rape is rape. There are not different definitions of rape,” said Rozum. “Rape is rape,” said Buerkle. “There are no qualifications.”
Maffei has hit Buerkle hard over her initial support for a bill that called for an end to the use of any federal money for abortions. The bill initially used the term “forcible rape”. Critics said that would redefine rape and exclude some of them. Buerkle has said once she discovered the language, she made sure it was eliminated in the final bill.
Planned Parenthood: Buerkle wants all federal funding to Planned Parenthood stopped. “They can function just fine without tax dollars being used for abortion,” she said. But Rozum said the agency fills “a very important gap in our health care system for women to find a safe space.” Federal funds cannot, by law, be used for abortions.
Global Warming: Rozum says human behavior is part of global warming. Buerkle says there’s no solid proof of that. Rozum mentioned several times that a recent Pentagon report identified global warming as a threat to the nation’s security. Buerkle said reacting to global warming could be “destructive of the economy.”
Medicare: Rozum said she would “cut the insurance companies out…basically profiting from our illnesses.” She endorsed the single-payer system nicknamed Medicare For All. Buerkle maintained Medicare is not sustainable in its current form and asked, “who is going to pay for it?” She called for changes to the system for future users.
Nuclear Power: Rozum called for nuclear power plants to be shut down in favor of green power sources. “There’s no level of radiation that’s safe,” she said. “There’s no safe way to store nuclear waste.” Buerkle supports expanding nuclear power, in a county that hosts three nuclear plants and where officials are on record as supporting building a fourth plant. “I think nuclear power is safe,” she said. “Those are good jobs.”
Hydrofracking: Buerkle said it was an issue that should be left to the state, not the federal government, to decide. “It can be done safely,” she said, adding that it would make the nation independent from foreign oil. “There’s no safe fracking,” said Rozum, citing drinking water pollution problems in Pennsylvania. “I say, ‘Hell, no!’, I do not want New York to turn into Pennsylvania.”
The Economic Cost of the War on Terror: Rozum called for America to “stop spending money on military adventures when we’re not meeting peoples’ needs here.” Military spending is just 19.2% of government spending, Buerkle said, adding that federal support programs need to be addressed. She acknowledged that Americans “are truly war-weary and rightly so.”
Reducing Unemployment: Rozum called for a public jobs program “to meet unmet community needs” like the New Deal that helped lift America out of the Great Depression. She said some industries have made record profits but are not turning those profits into jobs. Buerkle said, “I don’t think we can rely on the federal government for jobs,” returning to a theme she hit often on the night, calling on government to “get out of the way” and let private industry solve the problem.