Courtney, Hopkins-Cavanagh go head-to-head in debate

New London — A Democratic incumbent seeking a fifth term representing Connecticut’s 2nd District in the U.S. House and his Republican challenger went head-to-head during a Tuesday night debate at the Garde Arts Center.

In addition to spelling out their positions on major issues such as the economy, health care and foreign policy, the two candidates addressed some of their more controversial actions.

Incumbent Rep. Joe Courtney defended his vote in favor of arming Syrian rebel groups. His was the lone “yes” vote among the state’s Democratic delegation.

That vote was “about giving people the capacity to fight for their own communities,” said Courtney, who felt it would help avoid a “counterproductive” ground invasion of the Middle East.

Although there’s still “some very difficult fighting,” he said, “the fact of the matter is the momentum of ISIS has been stalled.”

Republican Lori Hopkins-Cavanagh said the country needs to take a strong stance on the Middle East, saying “jihad is our enemy” and calling the current U.S. foreign policy “such a mess.”

She also stood behind her comments calling President Barack Obama “fascist” and “racist.”

“There are certain forces at work in the media and in the Democratic party that would like to see speech silenced. And I refuse to silence my speech,” said Hopkins-Cavanagh.

The comments, she said, use the word “fascism” correctly and are critical of Obama’s use of “disparate impact” as an argument for “redistributing our society” in his fight against housing discrimination.

“Americans come in all shades. And really this administration is taking race to a level we’ve never seen before. And I won’t not say that,” said Hopkins-Cavanagh, who vowed to continue to speak the truth as a member of Congress.

Courtney replied to her comments by speaking in favor of bipartisanship and respectful debate, saying “that’s what people are really looking for … not who will go to Congress and say something more outrageous than the other person.”

Comments that “demonize” the other party by calling them fascist or racist contribute to gridlock, said Courtney. At the end of the day, he said, congressmen need to recognize that “the other guy’s not goose-stepping around Washington, D.C.”

The two traded harsh words about submarine construction, which Hopkins-Cavanagh called Courtney’s “one-trick pony.”

He countered that it must be “a pretty big pony,” as there are more than 160 small businesses that the program helps support. He said there were 366 new job openings at Electric Boat on Monday, thanks in part to his “proven track record of rolling my sleeves up and being very focused” on boosting the region’s economy.

Hopkins-Cavanagh said the region is actually “shedding jobs” and alleged that “there are not enough subs at this time for a war situation.”

But Courtney said her comments about five submarines being relocated to Virginia were inaccurate.

“Those subs were reassigned to squadrons right here in Groton,” he said, calling the notion “reckless ignorance” on Hopkins-Cavanagh’s part.

The candidates also disagreed about the best way to tackle the nation’s challenges.

Hopkins-Cavanagh said “we have to get government out of the way,” taking aim at eminent domain and the Affordable Care Act.

The use of eminent domain at Fort Trumbull was “egregious,” she said, and the real property owners there were “basically violated in a manner that is totally un-American.”

Courtney did concede that the use of eminent domain at Fort Trumbull may have been over the line, saying the practice should be restricted to “urgent public needs.”

The Republican candidate also called the Affordable Care Act “a reckless law.”

“I would like to see greater choice for people. Even the poor deserve great choice,” she said, although she could not say what health care system she thought should replace the ACA.

She said she supported coverage of pre-existing conditions and opposed single-payer systems.

Courtney, on the other hand, sounded optimistic about the ACA’s future. He said opponents of the bill without an alternative plan, like Hopkins-Cavanagh, are acting in a manner that is “obstructionist.” He shared stories of constituents whose lives improved thanks to the bill.

Twitter: @kccatalfamo


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