By Alexia Davis
The League for Women Voters (LWV) and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) hosted a debate for the 5th (and 7th) U.S. Congressional District on Oct. 25 in the Large Auditorium at Marple Campus.
The candidates are the first to run in an election for the 5th District, which was established after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court redrew district lines for the congressional map.
The 5th District includes Delaware County and part of Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.
The debate between Republican Pearl Kim and Democrat Mary Gay Scanlon drew a large crowd. The room was packed with people, all sitting or standing in aisles and along the back wall.
“I just want to hear what both candidates have to say,” said Kadin Bard, a Delaware County resident. “My main thing is the economy, and I hope that one of them is able to keep taxes low.”
The 7th District will be listed as a special election on the ballot. Kim or Scanlon will be elected to complete the term for the U.S. House seat left vacant after the resignation of U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-7) in April of this year.
Scanlon, 59, is pro bono counsel for Ballard Spahr. She oversees approximately 600 lawyers in 15 offices across the country who provide pro bono legal services to low-income clients and nonprofit organizations.
Scanlon has been a civil rights lawyer for more than 35 years and has addressed issues including immigration, child advocacy, and voting rights. She explained her motivation for running for office.
“The administration is telling us not to believe what we can see in front of our faces,” Scanlon said. “And Congress isn’t listening.”
Kim, 39, a former special victims’ prosecutor, has led the attorney general’s campus security initiative before leaving to campaign full-time.
Prior to that, Kim served in the Special Victims and Domestic Violence Division at the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office. She explained to the audience why she is running for office.
“I was frustrated with the current climate of Washington, …and politicians [who] could not work across the aisle for the common good,” Kim said.
Regardless of the results on Nov. 6, history will be made when, for the first time, a woman is elected to represent the Delaware County region in the U.S. Congress.
The debate started with each candidate delivering her opening statement. The moderator then asked questions which were created by audience members and screened for relevance by the LWV prior to the start of the event.
Delaware County residents Sara Arnold and Jonathon Wilson wanted to hear where the candidates stood on climate change and the environment, as well as how immigrants are treated in this country.
Dawn Maxfield, a copy editor and Delaware County resident, said her primary concern is healthcare.
“I have a son with a pre-exiting condition, so that’s what’s important to me,” Maxfield said.
The candidates covered a range of issues, including healthcare, the national deficit, gun control, education and the opioid crisis.
Toward the middle of the debate, the exchange between Kim and Scanlon on the topic of campaign finance reform drew “oohs” from the audience.
Kim spoke to the importance of campaign finance reform so that qualified individuals have the means to run for political office.
According to Kim, majority of her campaign funding comes from herself, family and friends.
“[While] we do agree that we need significant campaign finance reform, I didn’t know Senator [Patrick] Toomey (R-Pa.) was one of your family, friends, or an immigrant.” Scanlon told Kim.
Kim responded by expressing her appreciation for the campaign support she has received from local Republicans and Sen. Toomey.
“But let’s be very real,” Kim retorted. “This is Pearl Kim versus Ballard Spahr.”
The debate lasted about an hour and ended with closing statements.
Both candidates thanked the LWV and NAACP for organizing the event and told the audience why each of them deserves the vote in the midterm election.
“Congress is not doing its job,” Scanlon said when describing what she hopes to change if elected. “It’s not legislating in a way to help the people in this district, and it’s not acting as a check on the worst impulses of the Trump administration.”
Kim spoke last, and stepped out from behind the podium to deliver her final statement.
“I am running to change the narrative,” Kim told the audience. “I am running to shake up both establishments, both Republicans and Democrats, and to remind everyone that the government is supposed to work for us!”
As this newspaper goes to press, Scanlon has a significant lead in District 5 and District 7.
Contact Alexia Davis at email@example.com