The 5th Congressional District candidates gathered in Danbury Thursday night for a debate.
When it comes to firearms, both Democratic incumbent Elizabeth Esty and Republican challenger Mark Greenberg said they support universal background checks for gun purchases. They did however spar over being forthright on the issue and NRA ratings, with Esty leading off.
"I do wonder if you've been sought and received the support of the National Rifle Association, an 'A' rating, which is tough to get these days. So I am surprised by that answer, but pleased to welcome you to those who understand that we can protect the 2nd Amendment and can protect children."
"I wish Congresswoman Esty had asked my opinion about it, because I have never said that I was against it. As a matter of fact I was as shocked as everybody was to get the 'A' rating from the NRA since I didn't seek it. I didn't even fill out their questionnaire . Maybe I'll be downgraded to an 'F' after tonight, I don’t really know.”
The pair also said there needs to be stronger funding, more services and better screenings for mental health conditions.
One topic they addressed was immigration. Esty says she is co-sponsoring a bill that's already been approved by the Senate.
"It has an earned path to citizenship, it deals with security at the borders, unified families, ensures people pay taxes and get in line."
Greenberg says two things need to happen, and then the undocumented immigration situation can be addressed.
"Streamline the process so folks who want to come into this country, can come in without much delay, legally. We also have to make sure our borders are secured. For many reasons. We have to make sure diseases don't find their way over our borders, we're dealing with this right now."
The candidates were asked about accountability. Esty brought up Greenberg's testimony in former Governor John Rowland's recent corruption trial where he was approached by Rowland for campaign consulting in 2010 disguised in a business deal, which he turned down.
"For someone who would describe themselves as essentially 'gutless', I think goes to the heart of the questions about whether an elected official will stand up and do the right thing, even if it's political peril for themselves. Even if they might lose the election."
Greenberg said having principals means not airing a false commercial about Social Security, and quoted the Hartford Courant.
"All of Greenberg's words have been presented in dramatically misleading fashion in support of an overall claim that Greenberg wants to end Social Security's guarantee. That is unsubstantiated by the facts. Accordingly, we rate this ad: False."
Greenberg also said he believes members of Congress should only run for reelection once.
The candidates also discussed transportation issues. Greenberg noted that he was one of the people stranded on Metro North a few months ago when the Walk Bridge in Norwalk got stuck in the open position.
"Connecticut is beautifully located between Boston and New York, we have to make sure that our infrastructure is operating properly so we can stay competitive . We have to make sure our roads are working, we have to make sure that they are safe for the public.”
Esty called Metro North a lifeline, but one that can’t run on 1950s infrastructure.
"It needs to be faster than it was in the 1940s. We are a great enough country that we can aspire to speed and safety. I am a cosponsor of a rail safety bill that will put additional funds in and ensure we have positive train controls, which would have prevented the fatal accident that occurred last year.”
One of the questions that the candidates were asked was if they are better off now with health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, or worse off. Esty gets her insurance through her husband’s job.
"I don't participate in the government subsidized health care. I get it through my spouse, and it is largely the same as it was before.”
Greenberg, who has 5 children with his wife, says he is paying more and getting the same coverage by going from a group plan to an individual plan.
"My insurance premium for a family of 7 was $2,000 a month with a very small deductible. I was forced to go into a plan where the insurance premium is $1,650 per month, but the total of the co-pays and deductibles are $6,000 a year.”
The debate turned to foreign affairs. Greenberg says he warned about ISIS two years ago and says they need to be stopped through whatever means possible, including airstrike and arming moderates in Syria.
"I think to a large extent, we're dealing with a problem that shouldn't have been the problem had we acted properly two years ago, had we not created a vacuum by evacuating out of Iraq."
Esty says she supports air strikes, but is wary about putting boots on the ground without a clear military objective, calling for Congress to vote on that.
"I don not support the arming and the training of Syrian moderates. I voted against that request from the President, and I did so because our experience has not been good with those efforts."