Political beliefs spread far from left to right at the 24th congressional district debate at Alex and Faye Spanos Theatre on Thursday night.
Nine candidates answered questions from moderator and KCBX news director Randol White. Four of the questions came from the Cal Poly political science department, while one came from an audience member.
Here are the five takeaways from Thursday’s debate:
1. ObamaCare needs to change.
There was a clear split between Republican and Democratic candidates on what to do with the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as ObamaCare, when entering Congress. The one thing they all agreed on, whether they keep or get rid of ObamaCare, is that it needs to be changed in some way.
Republicans Justin Fareed and Matt Kokkonen said it was not passed bipartisanly and ObamaCare should be fully removed.
“This policy is like the Rubik’s cube,” Fareed said.
Democrat Bill Ostrander disagreed heavily and debated that the U.S. is the only country without affordable health care.
“We are 37th in health care. Cuba is even above us,” Ostrander said.
The only woman in the debate, Democrat Helene Schneider, said ObamaCare should be kept and even expanded.
“We’re missing the ability to negotiate prices for pharmaceuticals,” Schneider said. “We need to expand mental health services, and the lack thereof.”
Independent John Uebersax said Wall Street is behind the exorbitant cost of pharmaceuticals. He emphasized that society should focus on peace, not war, as he did for most other questions.
2. Student debt is ridiculous.
Schneider was the woman of lists in Thursday’s debate. One was her three-step plan to ease prices for higher education: “reducing student debt, increasing loans and grants and making community college free.”
Democrat Salud Carbajal agreed with Schneider and said “it’s ridiculous that you can refinance your mortgage, but you can’t refinance your student debt.”
Never going over time with his answers, Republican Katcho Achadjian kept his answer to the point that an “investment in our kids is an investment in our future.”
3. Democrats want the minimum wage raised.
As expected, Republican and Democratic candidates butted heads when it came to fiscal policies with the democratic candidates advocating for increasing minimum wage and the Republican advocating economic freedom and deregulating small businesses.
Fareed wanted to get rid of regulations and public bureaucrats.
Ostrander wanted to get rid of Fareed’s ideas and “the Republican playbook we’ve heard the last 35 years (that) hasn’t worked very well.”
Schneider and Carbajal agreed with Ostrander, especially on raising the minimum wage.
“No one should work a full-time job and still fall into poverty,” Schneider said.
Achadjian responded by saying the government needs to support small businesses because “they supply 66 percent of this country’s jobs.”
Kokkonen reinforced Achadjian’s statements and advocated for no income tax for people under age 25.
“That will work, I know that,” Kokkonen said.
Democrat Jeff Oshins took his time to continue advocating for freeing up student debts.
4. If you’re as persistent as Jeff Oshins, you get to ask questions. But people might not answer.
Oshins thought he had a better question to ask all the Republican candidates: if they would sign Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist’s pledge not to increase taxes.
Keeping up with his short answer quips, Achadjian responds to this by asking if the debate was going to stick with the prepared questions.
Called out, Fareed took the time to not answer the question but used his 30 seconds to again enforce promoting economic growth by getting rid of frivolous regulations.
The only Republican to answer the question was Kokkonen, who said he wouldn’t sign the pledge, but also won’t sign off on any more taxes.
5. Everyone agrees we need water.
Though they agreed on the need to clean up water, they disagreed on how to fund it.
“What happened in Flint, Michigan should never happen again,” Schneider said.
Schneider and Carbajal said the government should help fund programs for conservation of water, storage and aquifers.
Fareed, Achadjian, and Kokkonen said those programs could be beneficial, but shouldn’t be funded by the federal government.