Three candidates for Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional district exchanged views at a forum in Montgomery County Sunday, sharply disagreeing with the candidate who didn’t show, presumed front runner Marjorie Margolies.
A spokesman for Margolies, who held the seat 20 years ago and has close ties to the Clinton family, said she’ll consider debate invitations after March 12th. That’s when nominations for the seat are closed and it should be clear who’s in the race to stay.
The Democrats are competing for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, who’s running for governor. The 13th includes parts of Montgomery County and northeast Philadelphia.
The shots at Margolies came in the debate’s last question, when a member of the audience asked the candidates’ reaction to a statement by Margolies at a December event that “everything has to be on the table” on Social Security reform, presumably including benefit cuts.
Philadelphia State Rep. Brendan Boyle said he “respectfully disagrees” with Margolies, then sharpened his attack in his answer. “In 1994, there were two folks who were pushing this plan to raise the retirement age to 70,” Boyle said. “One was Mrs. Margolies. The other was Rick Santorum.”
In 1994, Margolies was campaigning unsuccessfully to keep her seat after casting a tough vote for President Clinton’s budget.
The other two candidates at the forum, Montgomery County State Sen. Daylin Leach and physician Valerie Arkoosh argued strongly against any cuts in Social Security, but didn’t mention Margolies by name.
Asked for comment, Ken Smukler, a senior advisor to Margolies emailed that “Brendan Boyle will find far more fundamental similarities with Rick Santorum when he looks in the mirror than when he looks at Marjorie Margolies: Boyle and Santorum have both taken positions opposing a woman’s right to choose. As evidence, Smukler cited Boyle’s inclusion in a list of “Democrats for Life” on the website of an anti-abortion group.
Adam Erickson, a spokesman for Boyle said “while no one can account for what random groups erroneously put on their websites,” Boyle supports abortion rights. He cited a 2013 rating from Planned Parenthood.
UPDATE: I’ve since received information from a couple of sources, one of them Smukler, challenging Boyle’s record on reproductive issues. I’m not in a position to sort all this out for this post. We’ll come back to it.
The three candidates who appeared at Sunday’s forum expressed broad agreement on issues of health reform, income inequality and environmental regulation.
Leach and Boyle disagreed on the issue of school choice. Leach said he proudly opposed voucher legislation in Harrisburg. Leach said vouchers drain money from traditional public schools, sending public education into “a death spiral.” Boyle said parents faced with unsafe and failing neighborhood schools deserve some options, though he said he opposes taking funds from public schools to fund vouchers or charter schools.
The forum was moderated by Philadelphia Daily News writer Will Bunch and sponsored by Montgomery County Democracy for America, a liberal-leaning Democratic organization.
Beverly Hahn, who chairs the organization, criticized Margolies for not appearing at the event.
“I think that if you’re not willing to allow your future constituents to see how you play the cards, I don’t think you can be trusted with the deck,” Hahn said in an interview after the forum.
Democracy for American video taped the forum. You can see it here.