WILKES-BARRE — Monday night the two men running in Pennsylvania’s 11th Congressional District faced off in their first debate in Wilkes-Barre.
Republican incumbent Lou Barletta is trying to protect his seat on Capital Hill from Democratic challenger Gene Stilp.
“So I’d like to hear your plan to save Social Security and I’d like to hear what the plan is to save Medicare and I’d like to hear your plan on how we reduce our debt,” said Rep. Lou Barletta.
“Let’s get down to the point where you can answer my question first, OK?” responded democratic candidate Gene Stilp. “What big corporate loopholes are you going to close? I know what corporate loopholes I would close.”
Standing at separate podiums, the two men fighting for a seat in Pennsylvania’s 11th Congressional District squared on in their first debate inside an auditorium at Wilkes University.
Organized by the Times Leader, Republican incumbent Lou Barletta and his Democratic challenger Gene Stilp told the crowd what they would do if sent to Washington, D.C.
“Medicare, I am exactly for Medicare, keeping it for our seniors as it is, no voucher program or any other fancy words. Secondly I am for Social Security,” said Stilp.
“If you care about whether or not you can find a job or keep your job or whether you can get a better job, if you care whether or not the government takes over healthcare,” said Rep. Barletta.
For the handful that turned out, many said they wanted to hear from both sides.
“Some more specifics on what kind of legislation they would propose in Congress, what kind of legislation they would support,” said college student Andrew Cutillo who came in from Clarks Summit.
“Not only to hear from Mr. Barletta, who I totally agreed with up until now, but also to see if Gene Stilp can convince me,” said Frank Wenpa from Nanticoke. “I’m hoping to learn a lot of from both sides today.”
Barletta, the former Hazleton mayor, won the congressional seat in 2010.
Stilp, a Luzerne County native, is a political activist, who now lives in the Harrisburg area.
The men are running in the newly re-drawn 11th District, which now covers nine counties.
Political Science professor Jane Elms-Crahall says the redistricting could be another challenge for the candidates.
“I think a lot of people are still walking around saying, “Am I still in the 11th Congressional District?’” said Elms-Crahall. “And they’re not sure and I think both candidates need to be better at telling the voters ‘yes, you are in my constituency.’”
The candidates for Pennyslvania’s 11th Congressional District have another debate scheduled for November 1 at WVIA Studios in Jenkins Township.