Residents of the 8th Congressional District gathered at Blakely Hall in Issaquah on July 24 for the first candidate forum featuring the democratic candidates for the district.
The forum, which was hosted by the Issaquah Highlands Council and moderated by Nate Perea, featured the candidates for the 8th Congressional District seat, left open by outgoing Congressman Dave Reichert.
Shannon Hader, Jason Rittereiser and Kim Schrier were the candidates in attendance. Perea said they had invited all of the leading candidates to the race, but they either declined or could not make it to the event.
The candidates were asked seven questions and given two minute responses to each. Some of the biggest topics of the night surrounded gun violence, immigration and health care.
On gun violence, the candidates all agreed that the issue has become an epidemic in the country and that more purposeful changes need to be made on a policy level in regards to firearms.
Rittereiser talked about addressing access to guns and intervention, citing closing loopholes on background checks, and preventing people with criminal records like domestic abuse or on a no-fly list gaining access. He also said that he wants to pass an extreme risk protection order process in Congress, similar to the one in place in Washington State, which would allow law enforcement to intervene and remove guns from a dangerous situation or from a person reported to police as a potential danger after a judge approves the order.
Schrier said that acting on commonly agreed upon safety measures such as safe storage and universal background checks is necessary. She also supported limiting magazine counts and raising the age to purchase assault weapons to 21.
Hader said that a common misconception, pushed in part by the gun lobby, is that we cannot have both gun rights and fewer deaths by guns. Some of the immediate actions she said needs to take place are universal background checks, making sure the systems doing those checks work and reinstating the 1994 ban on assault weapons. She also supported investing in a public health response that offers more tools for accidents and suicides, in addition to mandating that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resume gun violence prevention research.
The candidates were asked about the state of immigration as well and what changes they believe are needed.
The first response was given to Hader, who said she has found nearly universal support for a clean Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) bill. She also said that a pathway to citizenship that does not destabilize communities was important as well as maintaining and modernizing short-term work visas.
Rittereiser touched on similar points, stating that in addition to stabilizing pathways for citizenship, and a DACA bill, addressing H2A visas for farm workers and H2B visas of temporary visas was another important aspect of immigration policy.
Schrier also talked about immigration reform and stated that refocusing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on the deportation of criminals, rather than the separation of families, was something she feels is critical.
The three candidates also discussed health care, with all of them in agreement that access and affordability are some of the biggest hurdles in the way of an improvement to the system.
Schrier supported medicare for all and said she has proposed a four pillar plan to address several of the problems she has identified with the current system. Her plan is to have Medicare as a public option buy-in to increase access at any scale, fight back against escalating process of prescription drugs, stabilize the Affordable Care Act to protect people with preexisting conditions, an increasing emphasis on rural medicine and women’s health.
Hader also has plans of policy changes that need to be made to improve health care for all people. She listed several goals, such as lowering drug prices by using the bargaining power of Medicare, allowing people to opt-in to Medicare at younger ages and in broader markets, accelerating cost reforms and modernizing fraud prevention, and supplying support on a federal level to give states that want to lead with single-payer health care and similar innovative models.
Rittereiser also supported a Medicare-for-all system, and said he would co-sponsor HR676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act introduced to the House of Representatives earlier this year. He also noted it was important not just to focus on cost, but that every single person in the country should be able to access health care.
For more from the candidate forum at Blakely Hall, the Issaquah Highlands has uploaded a video of the entire event on their YouTube channel, which is also available on their website at www.issaquahhighlands.com.