Candidates discuss issues at recent forum

Almost every 13th Congressional candidate was present at a recent forum. Some raised questions about the absentees.

  • Present and accounted for: At left, Republican candidate Dee Adcock and Democratic candidate Dr. Valerie Arkoosh. MATT SCHICKLING / FOR THE TIMES

  • Daylin Leach (left) and Brendan Boyle debate during a forum hosted by the Willow Grove NAACP on March 17 at First Baptist Church of Crestmont. MATT SCHICKLING / FOR THE TIMES

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.” ••

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