Congressional candidates Kim Schirer and Dino Rossi tackle big issues at debate

8th Distrcit candidates Kim Schrier and Dino Rossi meet in Ellensburg for their first debate.

Candidates for the 8th Congressional District’s open seat met for their first and only debate of the election at Central Washington University on Wednesday, Oct. 17.

Democrat Kim Schrier and Republican Dino Rossi took the stage at CWU’s McConnell Hall to debate several issues they will face as representative of the 8th Congressional District, which runs from Issaquah, Auburn, and Sammamish all the way East to Wenatchee and Ellensburg.

The current 8th District Congressman and former King County Sheriff Republican Dave Reichert is retiring after seven terms.

Moderators Natalie Brand of KING5 and Ross Reynolds of KUOW, led the candidates through discussion of several topics including health care, economy and guns.

On reducing costs and quality of health care, Rossi said he wants to bring more competition to the health care system by freeing up current mandates and allowing health insurance purchases across state lines. He spoke out against his opponent saying she wants a “government takeover” of Medicare.

“My goal is to have as many health insurance companies chasing you around for your business as I can possibly get,” Rossi said.

Schrier said she supports the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and supports protecting people from being dropped by insurance companies due to pre-existing conditions. She said Medicare should be a public option so anyone can buy into it, just as they do with private insurance. That, she said, would bring down prices.

When asked about abortion rights, Rossi said he never ran on that issue, but stated he didn’t believe abortion was intended for anything but rape, incest, and protecting the life of the mother.

Schrier was also strongly supportive of abortion rights for women, saying “I will always support a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, I will support access to Plan B, which my opponent opposes, and I will always respect women’s rights to make their own health care decisions.”

On taxes, Rossi said businesses need modest taxation and regulation to grow, and accused his opponent of wanting to raise taxes. When small businesses are growing they create new jobs, he said, and that repealing tax cuts will kill 20,000 jobs in the state.

Schrier said building the economy from the middle class out by investing in 8th District industries like education, technology, agriculture and infrastructure to grow jobs in the 8th District. She also clarified her support for middle class tax cuts, saying the middle class spends money and drives the economy.

When speaking on immigration, Schrier condemned the policies separating children from their parents at the southern border and spoke about her support for common-sense immigration reform with more paths to citizenship. She also supports a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) bill which would provide protections to children of undocumented immigrants.

Rossi said it is too hard to come to the country legally and too easy illegally. He wants increased focus on border security and monitoring though physical barriers, electronic monitoring and border officers. He also said he did not support the separation of families at the border.

Schrier and Rossi also were split on President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, a multinational agreement through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to implement actions to combat climate change and carbon emissions.

Rossi criticized the agreement as letting pollution from China and India off the hook while handcuffing America. He said the country can move forward in a different way without the agreement. Schrier said pulling out of the agreement was the wrong move and, as the second-largest producer of CO2 emissions in the world, America has an obligation to the rest of the world to partner in preserving the environment.

The debate ended on the topic of gun safety and gun regulation. In a question on Initiative 1639, an ordinance to raise the legal age to purchase semi-automatic rifles to 21, Schrier said she supports the initiative and wants guns to be owned safely. Universal background checks and reporting systems were key elements she called out. She also called out Rossi for his A rating form the National Rifle Association saying he is supported by the gun lobby while she would work toward common-sense solutions.

Rossi noted that the debate had more security than most schools, and that school districts should have school resource officers in place to improve safety and security. On I-1639, he said he supports the Second Amendment and does not believe several of the provisions in the initiative are constitutional.

The debate was organized by Washington State Debate Coalition and sponsored by AARP of Washington, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and The Norcliffe Foundation. The full video archive of the debate is available online via KING5 news.