Schrier and Rossi debate in McConnell Hall

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Schrier and Rossi debate in McConnell Hall

Schrier and Rossi debate in McConnell Hall for the 8th Congressional District seat.

Schrier and Rossi debate in McConnell Hall for the 8th Congressional District seat.

Kejuan Coleman

Schrier and Rossi debate in McConnell Hall for the 8th Congressional District seat.

Kejuan Coleman

Kejuan Coleman

Schrier and Rossi debate in McConnell Hall for the 8th Congressional District seat.

Kejuan Coleman, Staff Reporter

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With much anticipation from voters all over the state of Washington, Doctor Kim Schrier (Democrat) and former State Senator Dino Rossi (Republican) battled in the first and only congressional debate for an open seat in the 8th congressional district Wednesday night in McConnell Hall.

The moderators of the debate were Natalie Brand from KING 5 News and Ross Reynolds from KUOW Public Radio.

Schrier and Rossi are running to replace Rep. Dave Reichert, who is retiring at the end of 2018 after serving his seventh term in Congress.

The race for the seat in the 8th congressional district has become one of the most competitive in Washington state. According to Natalie Brand, Democrats are attempting to flip a seat in the U.S. House that has been run by Republicans for nearly four decades.

Schrier, a Democrat, entered the race after Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. She has operated her own pediatrics practice at Virginia Mason in Issaquah, Washington for the last 17 years.

Republican Rossi has been in Washington state politics for over 20 years, since he first was elected to the Senate in 1996. Rossi ran for governor twice, once in 2004 against Christine Gregoire in the gubernatorial election, which gained national attention as one of the closest elections in U.S history. Rossi was declared the winner in the initial automated count and in the subsequent recount. In the third count, a recount done by hand, Christine Gregoire took the lead by 133 votes.

In 2008 Rossi ran for governor for a second time in a rematch against Gregoire, but fell short and was defeated by a landslide of 194,614 votes.

The format of the debate allowed each candidate 90 seconds for an opening statement, then questions were posed to both candidates and each had one minute for an initial response. Brand and Reynolds had a follow-up discussion regarding the initial statements from Schrier and Rossi.

Schrier opened first after winning the coin-flip that decided which candidate would speak first. .

“I can tell you the policies of this administration are a real threat to children and families everywhere,” Schrier said. “I have gone to bat for my patients so when Congress tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act and take always protection from people with preexisting conditions I went and met with my congressman’s office and explained all the ways it would be so harmful.”  

She also implied that Dino Rossi opposed women’s right to choose, in regards to abortion.

Rossi followed up with a different perspective in his opening statement. He told a story about his family’s immigration from Italy all the way to the Black Diamond coal mine located Southeast of Seattle. Rossi is a third generation Washingtonian, who was poor growing up on a teacher’s salary, then worked his way through business school at Seattle University.

“You rise to any level that your talent and work ethic will take you,” Rossi said. “There’s no guarantee with success in America, but you should have a shot at it; that’s why I’m running for Congress.”

The life expectancy comparable country average is 82 years old and the average life expectancy in America is 78 years old. Americans pay more for health care over any other nation, but many key indicators show that the lifespan of Americans is  much shorter. Which led to the first topic of discussion of the healthcare repeal.

Rossi was first to give his initial response. He swiftly criticized and accused Schrier of pursuing a “government takeover” that would destroy Medicare. The “Medicare for all” system that the Democrats propose would require a significant tax increase, he alleged.

“The government of healthcare means that the government is going to pick your doctors and pick your hospitals,” Rossi said. “We can’t afford that, even the left-leaning think-tanks said it’s going to have to double our income taxes to pay for it.”  

Schrier countered that Rossi’s statement as a misrepresentation of  the plan she was supporting. She said Medicare should be offered as a public option for individuals of any age to buy like private insurance.

“I got into this race because I want to make sure that every family in this district and this country can afford the health care they need,” Schrier said. “That means shoring up the affordable care act, not sabotaging it like our president.”

Washington is the most trade-dependent state in the nation and the 8th district is particularly dependent on trade, especially in agriculture-heavy areas like Kittitas County. The candidates discussed this in detail along with Chinese tariffs and trade wars put into effect from the Trump administration.

“I believe in fair trade agreements, agreements where we protect workers, we protect jobs and we protect the economy for the 8th district,” Schrier said.

Rossi referenced his experience in the State Senate as chair of the Ways and Means Committee writing a budget when the state faced a deficit to show voters that he’s well-tuned for the seat as Governor.  

“The last quarter manufacturing has dropped in China. We right now have an unemployment rate that’s the lowest we’ve had since 1969; we are in the position of strength,” Rossi said.

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