The three candidates looking to become the GOP nominee to represent the Fifth Congressional District debated at the studios of NBC Connecticut Monday night.
Endorsed Republican Manny Santos, former college professor Ruby Corby O’Neill, and businessman Rich DuPont are vying to replace Elizabeth Esty who is not running for reelection.
The candidates discussed the future of health insurance, tax cuts, tariffs, and the influence of President Donald Trump in the race. The three candidates each had very little policy differences among them.
Each of the candidates agreed that the Affordable Care Ac should be repealed and replaced, or at the very least overhauled.
Manny Santos, the former Mayor of Meriden, criticized Rep. Esty for voting against the most recent bill in Congress that mandated a degree of work requirements for Medicaid recipients.
"Be active in finding work, filling out applications or interviews or completing some sort of training,” Santos said. “This would only require 20 percent of the able bodied workers to do this and yet our current congresswoman did not support it."
Esty announced in the spring that she would not seek reelection to her House district, a seat she’s held since 2013. Her decision came after published reports of alleged abuse by her former chief of staff. Esty had kept him on even after she learned of the allegations.
The two Democrats vying for the seat are Mary Glassman, a former First Selectman from Simsbury, and Jahana Hayes, a former “National Teacher of the Year,” aware recipient from Waterbury.
O’Neill said of healthcare that work requirements for Medicaid are a necessity, and said any discussion of universal or single-payer healthcare, would devastate the healthcare economy.
"A move toward single payer system we're going to start standing on line for healthcare the way you stand on line for the DMV,” she said.
Changes to the law, DuPont said, will lead to changes in behavior, and boost health insurance enrollment organically, and not by government intervention.
"I believe firmly that the best way that you move forward is to take the programs that incentivize people to stay home and believe that the government will always take care of them and change that.”
All three candidates credited the tax cuts passed at the end of 2017 with being the driver of the surge of economic activity in 2018.
Some Connecticut residents, including many in the Fifth Congressional District, will in fact end up paying more in taxes as a result of cuts to SALT, State and Local Tax Deductions.
O’Neill said she advocated at the start of her campaign for a higher deduction, $20,000, for families to deduct state and local taxes, even though Congress and the President capped that deduction at $10,000. She said she still wanted to see a higher deduction and maintained residents will still end up paying less in taxes even though Congress changed that key deduction for higher income taxpayers.