HARWICH — With insightful questions and a straightforward demeanor that would have been at home in a national presidential debate, members of the Monomoy Regional High School political action club questioned the candidates for the Massachusetts Ninth Congressional District during an online debate last Friday. The session was ably moderated by student Annalise Langelier.
Incumbent William Keating, a Democrat, and challengers Republican Helen Brady of Concord and Brewster independent Michael Manley outlined their backgrounds and positions on a number of issues ranging from climate change to immigration reform and the pandemic during the one-hour Zoom debate, which was streamed live on the school's YouTube channel.
Student Tyler Brackett asked the candidates what steps they would take to protect Cape Cod from climate change. Manley noted that sea captains built their homes well inland because they knew the shore was eroding, even centuries ago. While he said climate change is real, he called on NASA to collect data and give advice. Brady said there are many environmental problems the Cape has to deal with and she called herself a “healthy skeptic” regarding climate change. Keating said there's no doubt humans are being climate change.
“To deny that is to let it go backwards, and it gets even worse,” he said. On the Cape, “we see it, we feel it, it's a threat to us and our fragile infrastructure.” While the impact of climate change on the Cape could be dire, the region has also been “one of the biggest beneficiaries” of funding for research into the impact of climate change on estuaries. “We are the laboratory,” he said. He added that he supports the U.S. staying in the Paris Climate Agreement.
Regarding the pandemic, Keating said the House of Representatives has tried to provide more help to families, health care providers and others but has been thwarted by the administration. “It's been a situation with the president and administration saying it's not a problem, it's going to go away miraculously.”
No one is responsible for the pandemic, Manley said. “Finger pointing is not going to help it, blaming people is not going to help it.” If everyone joined together with a common goal, “we'd be out of this a lot sooner,” he said.
The politicization of the pandemic has hurt America, said Brady. She said she was infected in February. There's no point in assigning blame, she said. “It's everybody's fault that it got brought to this point.” She told students that they probably wouldn't know it if they had the virus (scientists say that young people are just as likely to catch the virus as others).
“You have to move on in life not being afraid,” Brady said.
Asked who they will vote for in the presidential election, Brady said she will vote for Donald Trump, though she did not vote for him four years ago. She told how her father, a World War II veteran, told her about how a socialist agenda took over Germany. “He told me to pay attention,” she said. She said she used to be a Democrat but was concerned over the party's “very radical” direction.
Keating said he supports Joe Biden, whom he trusts and believes will unify the country “at a time it needs to be unified more than ever.” Manley said he was once a Democrat, but the party “has left me. And the Republican Party cannot get along” and has left many offices in Massachusetts uncontested. “If you want a tax rate of 50 percent, higher gas prices and commie condos, then vote Democrat. That should tell you who I'm going to vote for. We're both from New York.”
Keating called for expanding the Affordable Care Act to include people 50 or older under Medicare and “give people more choices.” He said Cape Cod has been a model for integrating food security, mental and physical health care accessibly. Manley said Medicare for all won't work and will push seniors to the “back of the line” if implemented. Brady acknowledged rising health care costs said she said didn't understand why there hasn't been a bipartisan effort by politicians to solve the problem. Keating, she said, “is just part of the problem.”
Asked about forgiveness of federal student loans, Manley said the federal government shouldn't be in the student loan business. Brady said taxpayers should not be in the business of guaranteeing loans. “You go to the school you can afford,” said the UMass Amherst graduate. Keating said access to education is important for the country's economic future, but it's no longer possible to work your way through college like he did, given current tuition rates. Public community college and universities should provide free tuition for those who need it.
Amy Hinesley asked about immigration reform. Brady said she differs with her party in believing that more immigration is necessary to grow the economy. “We can't just turn people away at this point,” she said.
Keating said he supports providing a path to citizenship to the so-called Dreamers. “It's an absolute disgrace that we haven't,” he said, adding that Trump has held the issue hostage to his border wall and personal agenda. The administration has even blocked paths to citizenship for legal immigrants, he said. Manley said if an immigrant has been here a long time and not gotten into trouble, there should be a path to citizenship.