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caption: Spectators pack McConnell Hall as 8th congressional district candidates Kim Schrier and Dino Rossi debate on Wednesday, October 17, 2018, at Central Washington University in Ellensburg. Tap or click on the first image to see more. 
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Spectators pack McConnell Hall as 8th congressional district candidates Kim Schrier and Dino Rossi debate on Wednesday, October 17, 2018, at Central Washington University in Ellensburg. Tap or click on the first image to see more.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Rossi and Schrier mix it up with U.S. House seat at stake

Democrat Kim Schrier and Republican Dino Rossi told a debate audience Wednesday night that they each would stand up against President Donald Trump.

“If I agree with him, I agree with him, if I don't I don't,” Rossi said. “I am not running to be The Apprentice."

But on issue after issue, the two candidates in the 8th Congressional District race to succeed U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert sounded a lot like their national parties.

Democrats are hoping that they can flip this seat -- along with a couple dozen others -- and take control of the House.

Schrier, a pediatrician, is a first-time candidate and is promoting her experience in health care.

Rossi is a business man and former state senator who came close to winning the 2004 race for governor.

The debate -- the only one between Rossi and Schrier in the campaign -- was at Central Washington University in Ellensburg. KUOW's Ross Reynolds and KING 5's Natalie Brand were the co-moderators.

Health care: What would you do to reduce the cost of health care?

Rossi: “What we need to do is to make sure we bring competition into the system and you can do it in various ways -- being able to buy across state lines in freeing up the mandates that we currently have. My opponent wants a government takeover of health care and a government takeover of health care means that that the government is going to pick your doctors.”

Schrier: “I got into this race because I want to make sure that every family in this district in this country can afford the care that they need, and that means shoring up the Affordable Care Act, not sabotaging it like our president and certainly not repealing it without a better replacement, like my opponent would do.”

Health care: What about pre-existing conditions?

Schrier: “I don't trust that this president will follow through and protect people with preexisting conditions because he has run and his party has run for years now on repealing the Affordable Care Act.”

Rossi: “I've been very clear all along that we should we have to do something about preexisting conditions. … But when Obamacare came in there, the Affordable Care Act, I lost my health care for myself, my wife and my four children, ended up with a lousy plan.”

8th District debate

KUOW's David Hyde reports

Abortion: Do you believe women should continue to have the right to a legal abortion?

Rossi: “My wife and I are both Catholic believe every soul has a value. I don't believe that abortion was really intended for anything other than cases of rape incest or life of the mother.”

Schrier: “I will always support a woman's right to make her own health care decisions. I will support access to Plan B which my opponent opposes.”

A KUOW listener asked about the ballooning federal deficit since the tax cuts that Congress passed last year. What would you cut from the budget, or would you restructure the tax cut?

Rossi: “First off we need to make sure that the tax cuts for individuals are permanent. Eighty percent of the money will go to people outside of the 1 percent.” He also touted his budget-cutting experience in the state Senate, saying he authored the most fiscally conservative budget in state history.

Schrier: “Now all of a sudden fiscal responsibility has returned to Congress and they want to pay for it by cutting our Social Security and Medicare and SNAP and other public benefits … . And frankly Medicare and Social Security are earned benefits that we paid for and that need to be there for us when we retire.”

Schrier said she opposed cuts for the wealthiest people and for corporations but wanted to keep benefits for the middle class. Rossi claimed that was a change of position and that Schrier had called for repealing all the tax cuts. But Schrier’s line last night was in keeping with previous statements she’s made about the cuts.

Immigration policy: What would you do to address illegal crossings at the border?

Schrier: “What we're seeing at our southern border is just evidence of the inhumane policies of this administration that really are only allowed to take place because of a broken immigration system … I support comprehensive immigration reform.” She called President Trump’s proposed border wall “a huge waste of our tax dollars.”

Rossi: “It's too easy to get here illegally and too hard to get here legally. That's the problem. And we have to make sure that we have border security whether it's a physical barrier or could be electronic monitoring or human beings as well.”

Labor policy: Farmers in the 8th Congressional District struggle with a labor shortage. How would you modernize the temporary worker visa program?

Schrier: “The H2A visa program does not work well for either the farmers or for the workers and can lead to sort of a pattern of indentured servitude where a worker is essentially held hostage by a potentially abusive farmer or farm owner.”

Rossi: “I don't believe our farmers are abusive, number one. Number two, we talked about the guest worker program. This is something that's broken. We need to make sure that we know who is coming here and make sure that they can they can get here do the work and go back to their home country.”

Environment: Do you support President Trump's withdrawal from the Paris climate accord?

Rossi: “Well if it were an actual real treaty President Obama would have brought it through the Senate to take care of it. But he didn't. What it did was it allowed China and India, the two who are the biggest polluters, off the hook. And that's what it did. It handcuffed America and let them get off the hook. And so I think we can move forward in a different way without that.”

Schrier: “I think it’s absolutely the wrong move. This is a place where we should be joining with our fellow citizens around the world. This is a global issue, it’s something that we should be joining with all other nations. We are the only country that has pulled out of that and we are the second largest producer of CO2 emissions in the world. It is our responsibility to clean up our mess.”

Gun control: How would you vote on state Initiative 1639, which among other things would raise the age for buying semiautomatic rifles to 21?

Schrier: “So what I want is to have guns owned safely. That means making sure they are locked up, and not in the hands of children. It also means having universal background checks and reporting systems, and making sure guns never fall into the hands of people with a history of domestic violence or severe mental illness.”

Rossi: “When I’m sworn in as a member of Congress, I’m sworn in to actually uphold the Constitution, it’s not just the First Amendment but it’s also the Second Amendment as well. And I plan on doing that. I don’t believe and many people don’t believe that that provision and a few other provisions are Constitutional. But the courts will decide that.”

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