U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent and challenger Rick Daugherty differed most noticeably on Obamacare and how best to increase employment in a forum Friday night for the 15th Congressional District race, hosted by the Lehigh Valley Project 9/12 Tea Party Group.
Republican Dent said he will vote to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act, a line which drew immediate applause from a fairly full room at the Charles Chrin Community Center in Palmer Township.
“The health care law is going to add costs … and it will also kill jobs,” said Dent, saying a Congressional Budget Office estimates that 800,000 jobs will be lost because of Obamacare. “It incentivizes employers to cut payroll.”
Democrat Daugherty said he favors the bill because he doesn’t believe quality healthcare should be tied to your income level. Everyone should have access to the same level of high-quality care, he said.
“As a society, I think that’s a good place to spend our money,” he said.
On job creation, Dent said the proper path is to lower the federal deficit and decrease job-killing regulations on business. Daugherty blamed U.S. trade policy, decrying free trade agreements with countries like China and Mexico that have sent manufacturing jobs across the border and overseas.
“We can’t have free trade agreements with countries that don’t share our culture, with countries that don’t have our labor and environmental regulations,” Daugherty said.
“It might be time to pull out of the World Trade Organization and say goodbye to China,” he added, saying that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has said that we should at least think about suspending trade agreements with China.
Getting rid of rule-breaking trade partners will bring needed manufacturing jobs back to the United States, he argued.
Dent differed, saying open markets are crucial to growing the American economy. “When the U.S. competes, it wins.”
Despite the differences, the two men were cordial. Both noted that they are longtime acquaintances with lots of mutual friends.
Dent, 52, of Allentown, has served in state and federal Legislatures since 1990 and is seeking his fifth term in Congress. Daugherty, 60, of Lowhill Township, is the executive director of the Lehigh County Senior Center in Allentown.
Though he has never held elective office, Daugherty was once an aide to Congressman Paul McHale, when he represented the Lehigh Valley. He is also currently the chairman of the Lehigh Valley Democratic Committee.
The two candidates will meet again in a live televised debate at PBS39 studios in Bethlehem at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 16.