WATCH: In Their Only Debate, NY-23 Challenger Calls GOP Congressman Liar, Untrustworthy
TOMPKINS COUNTY, NY (WSKG) - During their only debate this election season, incumbent Rep. Congressman Tom Reed (R-NY) and Democratic challenger Tracy Mitrano answered questions on the economic recovery, the COVID-19 pandemic, and healthcare
The debate was televised and streamed online by WETM-18 in Elmira, and most of the questions were from viewers.
On the economy, Mitrano accused Reed of not doing enough to bring necessary financial support back into the district. "Where's the money going?" she asked.
Reed responded by listing some of the funds that have come into the district, though Mitrano questioned how much of it was the result of legislation sponsored or championed by Reed.
Reed has voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). But on Tuesday night, Reed talked about the elements he supports.
"Things like pre-existing condition protections are the law of the land, remain," said Reed.
He also said he supports children remaining on a parent's healthcare plan until age twenty-six.
Mitrano wasn’t convinced.
"I do not believe you can be trusted on this question, Mr. Reed," said Mitrano. "You have voted against affordable healthcare every single time you have been in Congress."
Mitrano favors a system of universal healthcare, with government backing.
Reed did not provide any details of a Republican alternative healthcare plan that would replace the ACA.
The COVID-19 pandemic generated multiple questions.
Early on, Reed credited a bipartisan caucus he co-chairs with restarting current negotiations over the next COVID stimulus bill.
"We have a $1.88 trillion bill now potentially agreed to between the White House and the Speaker of the House because of our efforts in the Problem Solvers Caucus," said Reed.
Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY) is also a member of the Caucus.
Mitrano called the idea that the Problem Solvers Caucus got Pelosi and the Treasury Secretary back to the negotiating table “a fantasy.”
"The Problem Solvers Caucus has not gotten one serious piece of legislation through Congress," Mitrano said. "And in fact it’s just the work that any responsible Representative would do is to work with people across the aisle. I don’t know why we need a great big caucus about it."
The COVID-19 stimulus bill Reed mentioned is still under negotiation, and faces a doubtful future in the U.S. Senate. It is opposed by Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.
The candidates were also asked about immigration and whether ICE detention centers should be under Congressional oversight.
Mitrano said they should be subject to oversight. She called private ownership of many federal detention centers part of "the kleptocracy we have in our federal government right now."
She went on to criticize Reed for not supporting immigration reforms that would have helped dairy farmers with a visa program for their workers.
In his response, Reed focused on his support for emergency aid at the border.
He did not acknowledge the Administration's policy of separating children from parents at the border and instead said it was something President Obama did.
He also did not mention recent admissions by the Trump Administration that U.S. officials cannot locate the parents of 545 children, so their families can be reunited. Mitrano criticized her opponent for ignoring the issue.
Mitrano used a question about policing reforms to accuse Reed of lying about her position. She said she does not support complete defunding or abolition of police.
"It must be the inside Washington politics that has corrupted him from start to finish to utter such complete and bold lies about my position. I have never said that I want to defund the police" the Democrat said.
Mitrano has said she supports the Justice in Policing Act, which includes a ban on the use of chokeholds, defines lynching as a federal crime and contains a provision to limit qualified immunity. Qualified immunity protects officers from lawsuits over alleged misconduct.
Twice the candidates accused each other of interruptions, but the moderator did not intervene on either occasion.
In his closing remarks, for the third time in the debate, Reed held up a brick. He said one like one like it was used in a recent vandalism of his campaign office and left at his home with his daughter's name on it. He said it represented his fight against extremism.
Reed represents New York’s 23rd congressional district. It includes Ithaca, Elmira and Hornell.
Mitrano ran against Reed in 2018.