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The candidates for the Democratic nomination to the 9th Congressional District offered nuanced differences in a debate before the Toledo Rotary Club Monday on issues including health care, seniority in Congress, and a proposed national right-to-work law in a largely genial conversation.
U.S. Reps. Marcy Kaptur of Toledo and Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland, and Cleveland entrepreneur Graham Veysey tried to drive home their campaign themes on the final day before the primary election being held Tuesday in the 9th Congressional District.
The debate took place during the lunch presentation in a ballroom at the Park Inn downtown.
The newly mapped district stretches from Toledo to Cleveland, encompassing Lake Erie communities in three counties in between.
Voting starts at 6:30 a.m. and ends at 7:30 p.m. The winner of the Tuesday election will face the winner of the Republican contest, either Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher of Springfield Township or Steven Kraus, an auctioneer, of Huron.
Mr. Veysey, who is 29, said he would bring a fresh perspective in contrast to the two long-serving incumbents, both 65, citing the persistence of poverty and job losses in the district.
But he got push-back from Miss Kaptur, who said her seniority in the House of Representatives is hard-won, and from Mr. Kucinich, who said he has a close relationship with President Obama.
Mr. Veysey attacked the $15 trillion federal debt during this remarks to the heavily business-oriented group, and criticized the Affordable Care Act because it creates an $8,000 “doughnut hole” for employees whose employers will choose to pay the $2,000 penalty rather than buy insurance at $10,000 a year.
He said he supports the Affordable Care Act, but said the $8,000 gap has to be closed.
“That $8,000 doughnut hole makes the Affordable Care Act unaffordable,” Mr. Veysey said.
Miss Kaptur said small-business owners have the most to gain from national health care, which kicks in in 2014 with the mandate for everyone to have health insurance.
“I remember what it was like for our family here when our father had to sell his business for one reason — he couldn’t get health care for his wife and us kids. He didn’t even want it for himself. My vote for that bill will be one of the proudest things I’ve ever done,” Miss Kaptur said, becoming momentarily choked up. She said her father sold his Rossford grocery store in 1958.
Mr. Kucinich said he supported the bill “reluctantly” because he would have preferred a single-payer system.
“Essentially, it set the stage for us to have a not-for-profit system,” Mr. Kucinich said, which he said he sees as desirable.
He said the law still allows $800 billion a year to go to for-profit insurance companies, such as for stock options, corporate profits, executive salaries, advertising, and marketing. If it were applied directly to medical care, he said, “we’d have enough to cover everyone.”
Miss Kaptur said she is the only Great Lakes congressman with seniority in the House Appropriations Committee, except for one from Indiana. Miss Kaptur is now the second-ranking Democrat on the appropriations committee and is presumed to be in line to step up to the top spot in 2013, if she’s re-elected.
Alluding to Mr. Veysey’s knocks on her and Mr. Kucinich’s long service, she said, “Many societies value wisdom and experience,” and “When you’re making decisions about the budget of the United States, a little bit of wisdom goes a long ways.”
Mr. Veysey fired back that “for all the pork that’s been brought home, the pig is now dead. The $15 trillion debt is not going away, and earmarks, they’re a thing of the past.”
Miss Kaptur worked in her own animal reference when she turned a question about Asian carp into a defense of her seniority.
“Seniority doesn’t matter? We have to fund the $1.5 billion problem in Illinois. We have to take on several other delegations. Unless you fund those accounts, you are not going to stop those fish from getting into the Great Lakes,” Miss Kaptur said.
All three said they opposed a proposed right-to-work law, with Miss Kaptur and Mr. Kucinich referring to it by the derisive name used by labor unions — “right to work for less.”
Mr. Veysey said, “It’s wrong for workers. There’s no right to work in the legislation. It’s a complete overreach.”
Mr. Kucinich appealed to business leaders, saying reducing the wages of workers by cutting union rights means they have less money to buy products.
“If we don’t take a strong stand for workers, every one of you is undermining himself,” Mr. Kucinich said.
They emphasized economic recovery, with Miss Kaptur saying economic recovery is the priority over reducing the deficit.
“We have to be concerned with economic growth and handle deficit reduction in a way that doesn’t stifle economic growth,” Miss Kaptur said, blaming most of the deficit on the Wall Street bailout, the Bush tax cuts, and wars.
Mr. Kucinich had fun with Mr. Veysey’s claim of being a fresh face.
“I’m a fresh face in Toledo,” Mr. Kucinich pointed out.
Miss Kaptur and Mr. Kucinich, who have landed some hard punches on each other in their radio and TV advertising, avoided direct criticism. The Blade’s ombudsman, Jack Lessenberry, asked the questions at the debate. The debate was taped by WGTE-TV and can be viewed at www.knowledgestream.org.
Contact Tom Troy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6058.