Four candidates from both major parties campaigning for the 13th Congressional District seat occupied by Democratic Rep. Allyson Schwartz met in an evening forum hosted by the Willow Grove NAACP on March 17 at First Baptist Church of Crestmont.
Present were Democratic candidates state Sen. Daylin Leach, Dr. Valerie Arkoosh and state Rep. Brendan Boyle, and Republican candidate Dee Adcock. Former congresswoman Marjorie Margolies was conspicuous by her absence as she is largely considered to be the Democratic favorite, bolstered by the support of former President Bill Clinton.
Republican candidate Beverly Plosa-Bowser also was not in attendance. Her campaign said she was not invited. Plosa-Bowser was given a pass by the other candidates. Margolies was not so lucky.
“If you’re not willing to debate, if you’re not willing to mix it up, if there’s no issue you’re passionately arguing for, you shouldn’t be in Congress,” Leach said in his closing. “If you don’t vote for me, I hope you vote for one of my colleagues here tonight, because we are not yet that cynical as a people.”
Leach was not so subtly expressing his distaste for Margolies’ decision to skip the forum, a notion that the other candidates avoided, but appeared to agree with.
“Why should we waste time debating Republicans in a Democratic primary?” said Ken Smukler, a senior adviser to the Margolies campaign. “She has no problem with debates and looks forward to them.”
Margolies has plans to attend a Democratic forum organized by John Sabatina, Democratic leader of the Rhawnhurst-based 56th Ward. That forum is tentatively scheduled for early April. She also agreed to attend a forum sponsored by the Upper Moreland Democrats in May.
Generally, the audience questions from the March 17 forum strayed from divisive or abrasive issues, which allowed the candidates to focus on their backgrounds.
And agreement seemed to be a theme of the night, most notably among the Democratic candidates, but even across party lines, as Adcock conjured similar answers to the mostly Democratically tinged questions from the audience. But the candidates certainly made their general political divisions known.
Arkoosh stressed the importance of her career as a physician and her prominent role in shaping the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as “Obamacare,” to advocate herself as not just the best suited to handle the issue of healthcare reform, but a candidate who can bring about economic and political well-being.
“I’ve been labeled by many as the ‘healthcare candidate,’ and frankly, I’m pretty proud of that label,” Arkoosh said. “But I would describe myself as the ‘health candidate,’ as someone who understands what our communities need to grow and thrive.”
Her antidotes include a strong public education system, higher wages, public safety, advocacy for women’s issues and, of course, affordable, efficient healthcare.
Boyle also focused on the need for increased minimum wage and improved public education, but shifted focus to fundamental tax reform and affordable higher education. He cited his family’s blue-collar background to relate his history with the priority of his campaign: to more evenly distribute wealth in America.
“The gap between the wealthiest (1) percent and the other 99 percent of us is greater today than at any time in American history,” Boyle said.
Raising the minimum wage would “lift 4.9 million Americans, working Americans, out of poverty” and “lift everyone else on the pay scale,” he said.
Adcock, the lone Republican at the event, alluded to his role in the community as the owner of a small swimming pool business and former member of the United Service Organizations (USO) board of directors to promote his vision of “the American Dream.”
“We need to unleash the American economy, free it from excessive regulation, taxation and government intrusion,” Adcock said.
Leach spoke from a more progressive platform, citing his own childhood experiences in foster homes as evidence of the need for a “social safety net” to combat poverty and inequality. Apart from this, he advocated increased minimum wage, including the national tipped minimum wage, marriage equality and the legalization of marijuana.
He pointed to his record in introducing and supporting bills relating to these issues as evidence of his willingness to advocate progressive causes.
“I’m not in this to advance my career and to make sure I perpetuate my existence in politics forever,” Leach said. “I’m in here to make a difference on issues.” ••