The Alley went on assignment this week to the competitive 8th House District race in Pennsylvania, between incumbent Republican Mike Fitzpatrick and Democratic challenger attorney Kathy Boockvar, who sparred yesterday in the first of three debates.
Without further ado, here are three key takeaways from the their debate.
1. Race to the Center and Stay There: This suburban Philadelphia district is famously moderate. Democrats have a slight edge over Republicans in voter registration, with a fair number of independents, but they re-hired Fitzpatrick in 2010 in the tea party wave to his second, non-consecutive, term. During the debate both Fitzpatrick and Boockvar briefly occupied positions outside their party's orthodoxy. Fitzpatrick at one point called for "smart, targeted regulations," while Boockvar lamented "one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world." Boockvar pointed to a voter who told her she was voting for Mitt Romney for president but her for Congress. Fitzpatrick said he went to Congress, in part, to stand up to his own party "when I thought it was wrong."
2. Let's Talk Taxes: Both candidates acknowledged what no voters need anyone to tell them: That jobs and the economy are a top issue. That translated into a debate over taxes that included perhaps the debate's most memorable line. Fitzpatrick defended House Republicans for passing tax-cut legislation that the Senate did not take up. "Bills are stacking up like cord wood at the door of Harry Reid," he said. During the debate, the congressman said he would not raise taxes on "anybody." Asked after the debate how he thought Congress and the president could avoid that with the Bush tax cuts expiring, he suggested moderate Democrats and Republicans ("of which I'm one," he said) would have to lead on the issue. Boockvar said she favors letting the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthiest 1 or 2 percent, but said she's "open minded" about whether rates should be raised for incomes over either $250,000 or $500,000.
3. Campaign Finance Reform Is Your Friend: With one fierce ad in particular grabbing headlines in this contest, both candidates--Boockvar more strongly than Fitzpatrick--called for reforming the system that, so far in this race has accounted for nearly $1 million in outside spending, mostly in favor of Fitzpatrick, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Boockvar, the target of an ad that tried to link her to a convicted cop killer, used stronger language. " I have never been so much in favor of campaign finance reform as I am right now. ... it's a national travesty," she said. Fitzpatrick said only individuals who can vote for a candidate should be able to contribute.