MAYVILLE – The two candidates for New York’s 23rd Congressional District were at Chautauqua Lake Central School Tuesday night, Nov. 1 to participate in the second of two scheduled debates.
The forum, hosted by the Chautauqua County League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women, featured both Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning) and challenger John Plumb (D-Lakewood).
Reed told the audience that he feels the biggest challenge facing residents of the 23rd district is a lack of economic opportunity – which is something he’s been working to help bring to the southern tier since he was first elected in 2010. Plumb said that the biggest challenge facing residents is the dysfunction that can currently be found in Washington DC, and he said the Reed has shown he’s been a part of that ongoing dysfunction.
A variety of issues were covered during the debate, including The Affordable Care Act, the Second Amendment, conservation and environmentalism, social security, and veterans’ services.
When it came to the Affordable Care Act, Reed stood by his effort to repeal the healthcare plan, which he says has failed thousands of residents in the district.
“What we’re seeing, is it’s driving people out of the healthcare insurance market because you’ve got 25 percent premium increases, which just came out the other day,” Reed said. “At the town halls I’ve been at, I’ve seen the impact of these laws. People say, ‘Tom, I can afford the deductible. I can’t afford the co-pay. I can’t afford to go see the doctor. What is so good about this law?'”
Plumb also acknowledged that the affordable care act has not worked the way it was intended, but also said that instead of repealing the law, Tom Reed and the rest of his colleagues in congress should have focused on improving it.
“My opponent has voted 63 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, with no plan to replace it or fix it,” Plumb said. “That is making it worse every single time. It’s wasting our time. It’s wasting our taxpayer dollars and you know, we’re paying him to go to congress to do thsese things. The fact is, if we had improved this thing 63 times, maybe we would be somewhere right now.”
Both Plumb and Reed also addressed the issue of the second amendment and how to deal with violent gun incidents. Plumb said that he is a supporter of the second amendment and feels that requiring universal background checks for all gun purchases doesn’t infringe on the constitutional law, nor does banning gun ownership from those who are suspected of terrorism.
Reed said that he also favors limiting access of weapons to convicted felons, but said that government should focus on the mental health associated with individuals who are capable of committing violent crimes rather than resort to universal background checks. He also took Plumb to task for failing to receive a positive grade from the NRA….
“NRA endorsed us and gave us an ‘A’ rating. My opponent didn’t even bother to fill out the questionnaire and has a question mark from the NRA. What that means to the NRA is you are openly hostile to the second amendment going forward,” Reed said.
In response, Plumb said that as a military trained sharp shooter for both pistol and rifle, and as a lifelong hunter, he believes his experience and history when it comes to firearms speaks for itself.
“I do not need to fill out a silly questionnaire to get my credentials on my ability to use and safely handle a weapon. I’ve been doing it most of my life,” Plumb responded. “The fact is, I am a strong defender of the second amendment. I’m a hunter. I’m a firearms owner. And I defend the second amendment and all of the amendments – I’ve sworn an oath to that – and I’ve been doing it for 22 years in the United States Navy.”
The two candidates also commented on their choice for president. Plumb has supported Hillary Clinton since the beginning of her bid for president, while Reed has endorsed Donald Trump since the spring. Reed said that while he doesn’t always agree with Trump, he strongly feels that choosing Clinton will take the country in the wrong direction.
“When he has said things that we disagree with, we have called him out on that and said we disagree and that’s just plain wrong,” Reed said. “But when we are talking about the Supreme Court of the United States, I can assure you Donald Trump will put Supreme Court Justices on the Court that will do what the court should do – interpret and enforce the Constitution, not what Hillary Clinton and my opponent wants to do with his support of her: carry out a progressive agenda.”
In response, Plumb said that he disagrees with how Clinton has handled her email scandal and there are no excuses for it. But, he said she is still a far better choice than Trump.
“I’m not going to defend Hillary Clinton on the email server and the use of the server. That’s is just a terrible mistake and she should never have done that. With that said, I can not possible align myself with someone who disrespects disabled people, who mocks prisoners of war and who mocks fallen soldiers, and then boasts about sexual assault. This is not someone who should be leading the country,” Plumb said.
The two candidates addressed various issues for an hour. Both were pleased with their performances and felt the forum gave them an opportunity to highlight their platform while also illustrating why they should be elected to represent the district.
Plumb is challenging Reed (R-Corning) for his seat in Congress. Over the past two decades he’s served as a submarine officer in the Navy and later as an official at the Department of Defense. Most recently he’s served as director of defense policy and strategy at the National Security Council. He graduated from Randolph High School in 1988.
Reed is an attorney and former mayor of Corning who was elected to Congress in 2010 and has represented Chautauqua County since January 2013, when redistricting created the new boundaries for the state’s 23rd congressional district.