Final debate held for key Pennsylvania Congressional race with no incumbent

Bucks county Republican congressional candidate Brian Fitzpatrick speaks during Friday morning's debate at Del Val University. (Laura Benshoff/WHYY)

Bucks county Republican congressional candidate Brian Fitzpatrick speaks during Friday morning's debate at Del Val University. (Laura Benshoff/WHYY)

Pennsylvania has just one competitive US congressional race this year, in Bucks County and a sliver of Montgomery County.

At the final candidates’ debate for Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District at Del Val Univeristy in Doylestown on Friday, a swath of about 100 voters came to check out their the candidates – some for the first time.



Joe Guckavan, of Pennsburg, said he’d been too wrapped up in the presidential race to tune into the congressional candidates until now.

“It’s the first time I met them and first time I really looked at [the 8th district race],” he said Friday.

Guckavan, a registered Republican who manages the facilities at the university, said he will vote for Republican candidate Brian Fitzpatrick, brother of retiring incumbent Mike.

But, he said, he’s not really happy about his options.

“It seemed more like two Democrats up there debating rather than a Republican versus a Democrat,” he said of the Doylestown event .

Guckavan expressed traditional conservative values and said he is strongly anti-abortion.

“I can’t stand Trump,” he said. “I am incredibly disappointed that he’s our nominee.” Still, he plans to vote for the Republican presidential candidate and believes Hillary Clinton is a “criminal.”

Fitzpatrick, a former FBI agent, and his Democratic opponent, State Representative Steve Santarsiero, do share some similar views on things like raising the minimum wage, increasing education funding and expanding background checks for gun buyers – although they tend to differ on how those policies should be carried out.

Pat Houston, a registered Democrat, said he came to the debate a Santarsiero supporter, but that he likes to listen to Republicans because no one party has all the “great ideas.”

“The things that are important to me are education. I’m a senior, so Social Security and Medicare are obviously important to me,” he said. In a candidate, “I’m looking for people who are willing to compromise.”

Not everyone came to Del Val with their selection made. Bucks County Community College professor John Diehl brought some of his political science students, including Noor Takiedine, to make a case for participating in smaller races.

“[The candidates] were good, they were better than the [presidential] debates we heard,” said Takiedine, who sports a long beard and said he supported Bernie Sanders and later Jill Stein in the presidential race.

As for the 8th district debate, “I actually thought Brian Fitzpatrick did better or equal to Steve,” he said. As for who he’ll pick on November 8th, he said he hadn’t made up his mind yet.

With the race tightening in recent weeks, the 8th District seat is within reach for both parties.

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