WILTON, Conn. — The Affordable Care Act was just one issue that separated the candidates in the 4th Congressional District as incumbent Democrat Jim Himes and Republican challenger John Shaban faced off in a debate Sunday evening at Wilton High School.
Over 100 people attended the debate, which was hosted by the Fairfield County Chapter of the League of Women Voters. The 4th Congressional District includes Bridgeport, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, part of Shelton, Stamford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton as well as Oxford.
Himes said the act, better known as Obamacare, has done a lot of good. He touted the numbers, saying, "20 million Americans now, for the first time in their lives, have healthcare coverage.
"To call this act a failure is insensitive to the many millions of Americans who have really benefited from this," said Himes, a Greenwich resident seeking his fourth term.
But Shaban, a state representative from Weston who also represents Redding and Easton, said the Affordable Care Act has to be fixed and replaced. "Vastly more people have been hurt than helped by this act," he said.
"Government-run healthcare doesn't work," Shaban said. "We need an exchange, but it must be based on competition."
He acknowledged that while 20 million people have benefited, the Affordable Care Act has cost the country $1.2 trillion.
The two also disagreed on the role of government.
"Jim views the country as the federal government. I view the government as the people of the states," Shaban said. "The federal government could go away and we would still have a great country."
Shaban said the biggest problem facing America is keeping resources closer to home. "We manage things better on a local level," he said.
But Himes said the federal government is essential. He said, "85 percent of what the federal government does is handling Medicaid and Medicare, Social Security, defense and intelligence and paying the interest."
On immigration, Shaban said America should take the stand up and stand out approach. "Let's make a quicker and more efficient path to citizenship," he said.
Also, immigrants should follow the law and start an active path to citizenship, which would get everyone get back on track, Shaban said.
Himes said he strongly supports the "Dreamer" population, which he defined as those who came to the United States as babies or children by parents who came illegally.
"They often don't know any other home," Himes said, adding that he wants to support these people, who he said should not be blamed for their parent's actions.
"If we can't treat the 'Dreamers' as Americans, we would have a hard time getting to the rest of the the immigrant challenge," Himes said.
But Shaban disagreed, saying that if people are not citizens by the law, it's not fair to just give them citizenship. "So, let's fix that. When they turn 18, they should become a citizen," he said.
They disagreed more on global warming. Himes said it's important to learn what causes global warming in order to fix it.
"You can't solve a problem until you see what the problem is," he said.
Shaban said it's time to stop talking about what caused the problem and instead do something about it.
But the two candidates found some common ground on gun control.
Shaban said he voted for the gun bill in Connecticut in 2013. "And while Jim and others have staged protests on the issue, they have done nothing to address the primary ingredient in gun violence -- the illegal shipment of mostly handguns across state lines. This is a federal job and no one is doing their job."
Himes said he is angered when the House of Representative takes a moment of silence to pay tribute to those who have died from gun violence.
"I will not stand for a moment of silence again," Himes said. "I will continue in ways that are very real to fight this fight. If re-elected, I will continue to sponsor every bill I can to end gun violence."
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