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4th Congressional District candidates face off in debate

The candidates in the 4th Congressional District have met for their lone in person debate of this campaign.  Democratic incumbent Jim Himes is seeking a 7th term and is being challenged by a political newcomer.  Republican Jonathan Riddle, who works in financial consulting and wealth management.  The debate was by the League of Women Voters of Connecticut.

The debate started off with the topic of the Affordable Care Act. 

Himes, who voted for the ACA, said while he would defend it relentlessly, it isn't perfect.  He added that it's more vital today as most people get their insurance form an employer, but in the last 8 months some 20 million Americans have stopped having an employer.  Riddle says the ACA has some good points, but is a massive failure.  He says the exchanges eliminated competition and called for competition between states to drive down prices.  Himes says the ACA needs to be enhanced, not repealed.  Riddle says it should be replaced, not repealed.

Response to the COVID-19 pandemic was also addressed.  Himes touted his support for the bipartisan stimulus bill in March and noted that the House has passed two other stimulus packages, neither of which have come up for a vote in the Senate.  Riddle called on Congress to do more and stop dragging their feet.  He said the $3.2 trillion bill aims to save bankrupt states like California and New York and Illinois and Connecticut, making coronavirus the issue of the fiscal irresponsibility of these states. 

The candidates also differed on immigration, but agree on some aspects.  They both say the system is broken and that Dreamers should be provided with a path to citizenship.  When it comes to building a border wall, Himes opposed it and Riddle supports it.  Himes became emotional when talking about separating families at the border.  Riddle pointed out that the program was started by President Obama.

They agreed on the need for more funding to repair roads and bridges.  Riddle says the train and highway systems are falling apart. He called it unacceptable that new trains were purchased, but no one thought to upgrade the tracks.  He called for high speed rail throughout the region.  Himes touted federal funds to fix the century-old Walk Bridge.  He says all of the funding he was able to secure hasn't been enough.  Himes says he would have supported President Trump's pledge to get an infrastructure bill passed and remains on the top of his priority list.

The pair had some agreement on gun laws, but departed from each other elsewhere on the issue. Riddle says there are strong enough gun laws on the books, but they're not being enforced properly.  Himes says it's not about enforcement, it's about a lack of consistent laws.  Himes called for universal background checks, limits on certain types of guns and standards for safe storage.  Riddle fully automatic weapons aren't on the streets legally.  He agrees about the need for universal background checks and closing the gunshow loopholes.

The 4th Congressional District encompasses Bridgeport, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, Norwalk, Oxford, Redding, Ridgefield, part of Shelton, Stamford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport and Wilton.

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Todd Schnitt

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