By Logan Nardo
Congressman Bob Goodlatte, the 10-term Republican representative for Virginia’s 6th District, squared off against his Democratic challenger, Andy Schmookler, in a series of three debates over four days.
The debates began Saturday in Roanoke, and finished with face-offs Monday and Tuesday, at Liberty University in Lynchburg and Turner Ashby High School in Bridgewater. The candidates covered many of the issues being debated by the presidential candidates as well: the size of government, the national debt, Medicare and Social Security.
“Certainly up there with the biggest problems is: our government is for sale,” Schmookler said at the Saturday debate at Breckinridge Middle School in Roanoke.
Goodlatte, at that debate, emphasized that he wants to reform the tax system. He said he would not vote to raise tax rates on any income level.
Schmookler, a historian and author who has never run for office before, said that what prompted him to run was his sense that the current Republican Party had betrayed its traditions and become a serious danger to the country’s political future. For instance, he said, the “conservative” thing to do would have been to raise the debt ceiling as Congress had done routinely in the past. Instead, he said, the GOP has refused to raise the debt ceiling for the first time, holding it hostage to its agenda of cutting programs and making Obama fail.
Goodlatte acknowledged that he had voted previously to raise the debt ceiling, but said he would not do it again.
The candidates debated Medicare as well, another national hot button issue. The two candidates did not fall perfectly along their party lines.
Goodlatte said he believes that the government should help cover medical expenses for senior citizens, but the program should be financially stable. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is meant to ensure affordable health care for almost all citizens, but critics say it does not pay for itself.
“We are headed in the wrong direction in solving our health care problems,” said Goodlatte.
Schmookler said he had hoped for a public option in the Affordable Care Act. He said we still need to address the rising cost of medical care. “It is not a Medicare problem, it is an American health system problem.”
Goodlatte, a Washington and Lee University Law graduate, will speak at his alma mater on Wednesday, Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m. about his experiences and the upcoming election.