FORUM: Democratic US rep. candidates talk tax codes, immigration

Democrats running for the 6th District U.S. representative office discussed tax codes, healthcare and immigration at Wednesday ’s candidate forum.

Running for the seat are Jim Gray, Theodore Green, Daniel Kemph, Amy McGrath, Geoff Young and Reggie Thomas. Thomas was unable to make it to the forum. Running on the Republican ticket are Incumbent Andy Barr and Chuck Eddy. Barr and Eddy were invited to the forum but declined to participate.

The district includes Anderson, Bath, Bourbon, Clark, Estill, Fayette, Fleming, Franklin, Madison, Menifee, Montgomery, Nicholas, Powell, Robertson, Scott, Wolfe and Woodford counties.

In his opening statement, Young said he was the only peace candidate and was running to prevent a nuclear war. Young named McGrath as a “war criminal” because of her service overseas.

“She participated in the war in Iraq that started in 2003,” he said. “She had time and opportunity to research that, and she failed to do so. If she had put in the effort, she would have learned that the entire war in Iraq in 2003 until today was illegal, was aggression and was a war zone, so she participated as a minor player.”

McGrath served in the U.S. Marine Corps for about 20 years.

Green and Gray defended McGrath before answering the first question of the night, saying McGrath should be commended for her service. Green also said he is a Vietnam veteran.

“I don’t know if that makes me a war criminal,” he said.

In his opening statement, Gray lauded his successes as mayor of Lexington and said he knows he could get the job done in Washington. He said there is a need for tax reform that’s good for the middle class.

“The tax cut bill that was passed last year was great for billionaires and millionaires, but it was not good for the middle class,” Gray said.

As far as tax cuts, Green said the current tax code needs to be rescinded, and it needs to go through the proper channels.

Kemph said he also supported tax reform.

McGrath said both parties need to work to reform the tax code because the only people benefiting are corporations.

“We have to do better,” she said.

Young said his stance on tax reform was akin to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ stance.

“I strongly supported Bernie Sanders in 2016, and he had the right idea,” he said.

In regards to healthcare, Gray said he defends the Affordable Care Act put into place under the Obama administration, but there are still improvements to be made.

The comprehensive healthcare reform law enacted in March 2010, sometimes known as “Obamacare,” planned to make affordable health insurance available to more people by providing consumers with subsidies or premium tax credits that would lower costs. The bill also aimed to expand the Medicaid program to cover more people that fall below the federal poverty level.

He said if the government abandons ACA, 70,000 people in the district will lose healthcare. He said the government could restore the reimbursement program.

“We cannot go back to a time when the insurance companies controlled everything and prevented those with pre-existing conditions to get insurance,” he said.

McGrath said healthcare is the single most important issue of the district. She said ACA wasn’t perfect, but it can be improved. She said there needs to be an option for individuals to choose private insurers or government insurance. She said having the option for government insurance would bring down the costs of private insurances and provide incentives to the insurance companies to be more competitive.

“I propose you also have to have Uncle Sam,” she said. “And if you’re like me and you’re not afraid of government medicine because I had government medicine for 24 years in the United States military and I liked it. You can pick Uncle Sam, and if you’re afraid, then you can pick private.”

Green and Kemph said they support a single-payer healthcare system. However, they said it would take time to replace and improve ACA.

“It’s an evolutionary process,” Green said.

Green said he does not support lumping Veteran Affairs benefits in with other healthcare providers.

Young said the solution to healthcare reform has already been answered with the Medicare for All act that would implement a single-payer healthcare system. The act has never been passed in Congress, but Young said he would support the bill and work to bring it to the forefront of Congress if elected.

For immigration, Gray said there needs to be comprehensive immigration reform, and while there need to be secure borders, a “wall” isn’t necessary. All candidates were against the idea of a border wall.

“This idea of a wall I thought was crazy even when Mexico was going to pay for it,” Gray said.

Gray said it’s crucial to keep in mind that all Americans were immigrants at one point or another.

“We need to remember that as we move forward to tackle and embrace reform,” he said.

Green said it’s mainly immigrants south of the border that are criticized. He said he supports comprehensive immigration reform and doesn’t support a wall.

McGrath said the wall is a 13th Century solution to a 21st Century problem.

“We do need bipartisan immigration reform,” she said.

McGrath also said she would work to make Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, also known as Dreamers, citizens. DACA is an immigration policy enacted under the Obama administration that allows some individuals who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and become eligible for work permit. The Trump administration has publicly announced it’s opposition to the policy.

Young also said he would work to make DACA recipients citizens; he said the underlying issue was foreign policy.

“No person is illegal,” he said.

About Lashana Harney

Lashana Harney is a reporter for The Winchester Sun. Her beats include schools and education, business and commerce, Winchester Municipal Utilities and other news. To contact her, email lashana.harney@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0015.

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