OLEAN—With just four days to go before the election, Democratic Congressional Nominee Tracy Mitrano (NY-23) met her opponent, incumbent Representative Tom Reed, for the pair’s third and final debate in Olean High School in Olean. A spirited crowd turned out for the debates, taking it in turns to cheer the answers they supported.
Mitrano spoke passionately about the issue she has made one of the centerpieces of her campaign for Congress: access to healthcare. Mitrano supports a gradual implementation of Medicare for All, which would give more people access to one of the government’s most popular programs, increasing the government’s ability to negotiate prices while reducing overall healthcare costs.
“We spend too much on healthcare in this country because the delivery revolves around profit, not taking care of people,” Mitrano said. “There is no one bargaining on our behalf. We must invest in dental and vision coverage. I meet people across the district with no teeth, and there is no reason this nation should not support this coverage. The only explanation is a Congress who votes with their corporate donors.”
Reed seemed to agree with Mitrano’s contention that healthcare reform is needed to address the high costs of care, without offering any specifics for major reforms that would allow Congress to do so. Mitrano noted that the Republican Representative has been in office since 2010, voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which protects individuals with pre-existing conditions, every time he could.
“Our healthcare system isn’t working,” Reed said. “I get the fear.”
He criticized the high costs of Mitrano’s plan, noting that a study by the libertarian think tank Mercatus had found that one iteration of Medicare for all would cost $32 trillion. He failed to note that the same study found that this would constitute a $2 trillion reduction in overall healthcare costs. He also failed to provide concrete alternatives, a common trend throughout the night. A careful implementation of Medicare for All, Mitrano said, would allow for healthcare reform without an increase in taxes for middle and working class people.
In response to Reed’s repeated attempts to blame Mitrano for NY Governor Cuomo’s state policies, she said, “You’re not running against Mr. Cuomo. My name is Tracy Mitrano,” eliciting thunderous applause from the audience.
Mitrano consistently called out Reed’s continued pattern of accusing her of being “extreme” and mischaracterizing her well-known and consistent policy platforms.
“He is going to mischaracterize my position,” Mitrano said, noting that Reed touts his “Problem Solvers” and bipartisan credentials but that his votes and his divisive rhetoric proves he is neither. “He goes back and repeats his lies … That is not bipartisan.”
The Republican Congressman co-chairs the Problem Solvers Caucus, which has over 40 Democratic and Republican members but has yet to pass any major legislation since its inception in 2017. The crowd grew progressively tired of Reed’s frequent mention of the caucus throughout the night and responded with loud boos.
“We cannot rely on promises of bipartisanship that never materializes,” Mitrano said.
Mitrano fired back when Reed questioned her commitment to manufacturing jobs, stating, “I am for helping and investing in every manufacturing job. I am endorsed by the AFL-CIO. You are not.”
Touting her strong professional track record of bringing results, Mitrano said, “I built a public-private partnership to transition people who were in traditional manufacturing to new manufacturing…we just need someone with the experience and innovation to do it—and I will do it.”
In her closing statement, Mitrano appealed directly to the people of NY-23, emphasizing that she stands, and always will stand, first and foremost for their interests.
“I want economic opportunity in this district,” Mitrano said. “I am asking for your vote because in unity, I want NY-23 to be a place where there is economic development, good jobs, and opportunity for everyone in this district.”
Tuesday’s election will decide which of the two will represent NY-23 in the next Congress.