VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The Hampton Roads Chamber gathered at the restored Cavalier Hotel in Virginia Beach Tuesday to hear from two candidates vying to serve the 2nd Congressional District over the next two years.
Incumbent U.S. Rep Scott Taylor and Democratic challenger Elaine Luria faced off taking on a number of issues from sequestration to the caravan of immigrants heading towards America.
One of the key issues argued at Tuesday’s debate was tax cuts.
Luria expressed concerns about the current debt, while Taylor spoke about the importance of Medicare and Social Security lock boxes. Luria said it’s great to have lock boxes, but you have to have money to put in it.
“We have only been given a modest tax cut,” Luria said. “The average for 99 percent of the people is $688 dollars a year. For the top 1 percent it’s $55,000 a year, so I think we need to think about where our values are.”
On the issue of taxes, Taylor reminded the audience from whence he came. “I grew up poor on the Delmarva peninsula. I was raised by a single mom, so I can tell you $688 dollars could be the difference between the lights going on and off.”
Another huge issue in the election: medical payments for Pre-existing conditions. Luria stood by her ads on how Taylor is weak on protecting those payments. Taylor blasted democrats for lying about his record.
There closing statements summed up their campaigns.
Taylor said, “A couple of years ago I told you what I was going to do, and I told my opponent what I was going to do and she voted for me twice. I’ve worked with many of you in this room for years to help build our military and protect veterans benefits. I want to continue representing you to get things done, and to work across the aisle to call out my party if I must, but to do it with respect.”
He was followed by Luria who told the 200 gathered, “I have listened more than I have talked, and what voters tell me they are concerned about the rising cost of health care and they are concerned about this congress voting to gut their coverage for pre-existing conditions. They are worried about having to work longer because of threats to social security.”
VIDEO (App Users): Full debate between Luria and Taylor
Luria also pressed Taylor about the controversy surrounding the forging of names on petitions to get a political foe Shaun Brown on the ballot. Taylor said all people involved in the gathering of those signatures have been dropped from the campaign.
One of the biggest issues in campaigns across the country is cutting benefits for pre-existing health care conditions. This issue more than any other is the target of hundreds of thousands of dollars in the second district congressional race.
Luria said, “Congressman Taylor said that he would never remove coverage from people with preexisting conditions. He subsequently voted for the AHCA which removed coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.”
Taylor countered, “That is a lie…I have people with pre-existing conditions in my own family. That’s crazy that we wouldn’t try to protect them. I actually co-sponsored legislation that we mandate that we do just that.”
The Caravan was another issue brought up by Moderator Dr. Bob Holsworth, who is a distinguished political scientist from Richmond. The Caravan is a 7000 person march from Honduras through Mexico heading towards the U.S. border.
Taylor expressed caution over whether to accept the refugees. “It’s great that folks want to come here and better their lives and raise their kids and get a better education and make money,” he said. “That’s a good thing, but you have to do it right, and we have swearing in ceremonies right in Norfolk. My son’s mother is an immigrant.”
Luria seemed to be more accepting of the flight of Hondurans seeking a better life.
“We do not have to make a choice and pick between strong borders and a strong immigration policy that works,” Luria said. “We can and should have both, and that is the responsibility of congress and congress doesn’t have the current will to have that happen.”
Other issues discussed Tuesday included high cost of prescriptions, tariffs and sequestration.
The issue of sequestration — which is across the board military cuts that has decimated our work force here in Hampton Roads — allowed each candidate to highlight what each brings to the table.
“What I’ve also been able to do because I am on the Appropriations Committee, and I want to remind you I’m the first one ever in history from Virginia,” Taylor said. “We have helped to bring hundred and hundreds millions of dollars back to this economy. It’s not frivolous spending but needed maintenance for readiness and military bases that are around here.”
Luria said, “I’ve lived through sequestration. I was the executive officer on a guided missile cruiser the USS Anzio we had a crack 14 feet long and two feet wide in our hanger bay. The deferred maintenance for 10 years and we still got underway and deployed with our South American neighbors for a UNITAS deployment.”
After the debate, Taylor took questions on Luria hitting him for his staff’s involvement in the forging of names on petitions.
Taylor again affirmed those involved no longer involved with the campaign. “The only ones who ask me about this are you guys in the media…all those involved have been removed from the campaign,” he said.