CORNING—Democratic Congressional Nominee Tracy Mitrano (NY-23) met incumbent Republican Representative Tom Reed last night in a debate at Corning Community College, hosted and broadcast live by WETM-TV. A large and lively crowd turned out to watch the contest, filling the college gymnasium, many donning ‘Tracy Mitrano for Congress’ T-shirts.
The debate was the second of three meetings scheduled between the pair, who met for a debate last Wednesday at the headquarters of the Jamestown Post-Journal.
In her opening statement, Mitrano introduced herself, describing what had led her to run for Congress after a long career in higher education and internet technology policy administration.
“I grew up in Rochester,” Mitrano said. “My father, who left high school to help support his immigrant Italian family, came home from the second World War to open a downtown restaurant. My Irish mom was a barmaid in the tavern across the street. I learned the meaning of family, hard work, and commitment in that restaurant … I entered politics out of an abiding concern for our national security and for the integrity of our democratic process.”
Early in the debate, Mitrano was asked what issue she hears about most frequently from voters on the campaign trail, and what she would do, if elected, to address it.
“It’s healthcare, healthcare, and healthcare,” Mitrano said. “And I would address it … by talking about a carefully implemented system that is now going by the name of ‘Medicare for All,’ or single-payer. I would do it in a carefully implemented way, so as not to spike people’s taxes, so as not to disrupt people’s healthcare, and not to shock our economy.”
Mitrano said that currently, there is no competition in the healthcare marketplace, so that empowering government to negotiate with healthcare providers would aid in lowering costs that have become exorbitant. ‘Medicare for All,’ she noted, would also reduce overall healthcare costs by cutting now on administrative and advertising costs.
Reed was asked about his numerous votes to overturn the Affordable Care Act and whether he would vote again to repeal the legislation if his party continues to control Congress, endangering its protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Reed said that he voted against the Affordable Care Act while supporting some of its individual provisions.
“We need to empower doctors,” Reed said, noting his position on the Affordable Care Act was clear from his voting record to remove it.
The Congressman did not specify what this kind of empowerment would look like, nor how his policies would ensure greater transparency.
“Mr. Reed has voted against affordable healthcare every single time, in the last eight years he has been in office, that it has come across his desk,” Mitrano said. “That means that we have 40,000 people still in this district without any form of healthcare, including almost 8,000 children, and we have a representative who, in 8 years, has done nothing to help and nothing about it. HMOs give Mr. Reed more money than any other source of his campaign financing.”
The candidates were also asked about the divisiveness in American politics today.
“Let’s be very specific about the lack of moral leadership that we have had from this President,” Mitrano said. “He has made fun of disabled people, women, immigrants—about whom he has spoken about in racist, degrading terms.”
Mitrano noted that while she understood how Trump’s disruptive style might initially have been appealing to some in her district, she believes that lack of care that the President has for Americans, including working people of NY-23 has now become clear.
“The tariffs are hurtings are farmers. They’re hurting our manufacturers. They are hurting our retailers. [President Trump] has supported separating children and parents at the border. He supported a tax bill that most decidedly is disadvantageous for middle and working-class people and has given a great windfall to the 1 percent, while handing us a $2 trillion deficit. He, along with the Republicans, including Mr. Reed, have vowed to undermine Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security,” Mitrano said. “Most importantly, Mr. Trump has not offered the moral leadership in this country…He is not doing what he could do to help us in this divisive moment. And it would be great if Mr. Reed could stand up and say that.”
But Reed did not wish to say that, stating that while he sometimes disagreed with the President’s style, he has chosen not to be public in his criticism and arguing that President Trump has helped the American economy.
Reed has been far more willing to be public in his criticism for what he labeled the “extreme” left, and in the debate, Mitrano asked him about the hypocrisy of his touting his position in the No Labels Caucus in Congress while calling his constituents such things as, “extreme,” “extremists,” and “New York City liberals.”
“We are going to stand up against extremism. We are going to stand up in hostile crowds,” Reed said, apparently referring to people who disagree with him within his own district.
Mitrano also called into question the sincerity of Reed’s purportedly bipartisan accolades.
“His Problem-Solvers group has solved this many problems,” Mitrano said, holding up her right hand in the shape of a ‘0’.
Asked whether she would be willing to work with politicians from the other side of the aisle if she was elected to Congress but the Republicans maintained the majority in the House of Representatives, Mitrano was unequivocal.
“I plan to work with anyone who wants to work with me to help the people of the 23rd district,” Mitrano said.
Mitrano and Reed will meet for a final debate on Thursday in Olean, which will begin at 7 p.m. at Olean High School. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.