Washington County Commissioner Larry Maggi has challenged long-time Republican Congressman Tim Murphy in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District. Maggi is touting his experience in local government, while Murphy is running on a conservative voting record.
Congressman Murphy has won at least 58 percent of the vote against Democrats since 2002, but Maggi is still hopeful he can unseat the five-term Republican in the newly redrawn district.
As the President of the Washington County Board of Commissioners, Maggi said tax rates in his county are the second-lowest in Southwestern Pennsylvania. He said he’s balanced nine budgets in his tenure while reducing the size of government.
Maggi said he supports some parts of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, but not others.
“We need to work to make it better than what it is, and I think that we can do that," said Maggi. "Congress should, instead of trying to continuously bring it up to repeal it when it’s not going to happen, they should discuss the problem areas in it and fix it.”
The Democrat’s criticism of attempts to repeal the law may be a dig at his opponent. Congressman Murphy has voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act twenty-three times.
Murphy said he thinks the law has some merits, but must be heavily revised.
“It has a couple of good elements in it, out of the 2,700 pages, and that is, it keeps people from being cut from insurance if they are sick, and allows kids to stay on [their parents’] policies [until age 26]," said Murphy. "But that’s just a couple items out of thousands of pages. It is important that we get back and work this bill out.”
His opponent, Maggi, said he’d like to fund Medicare by reforming the nation’s tax code.
“We need to look at the tax breaks and the tax code for the millionaires and the billionaires, the richest two percent, and use that money to save Medicare,” said Maggi.
Meanwhile, Murphy touted his work on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The Republican said he wrote a law earlier this year to speed up Food and Drug Administration approval of generic drugs.
“That was important, because there’s over 2,000 generic medications in the pipeline that are not yet approved by the FDA because it’s backlogged," said Murphy. "Well, this bill has a self-imposed fee by the generic drug companies that would fund the FDA so that they could inspect plants and they could move forward on approving many of these generic drugs.”
Both candidates said spending cuts are needed to combat the nation’s growing debt. Murphy said he thinks the U.S. could reduce its debt problem by relying less on foreign oil. The Republican said he’s written a bill to reduce the country’s dependence on overseas energy.
“One that would allow us to use our own oil, off our coasts – the Atlantic, the Gulf, the Pacific, Alaska. We could be drilling safely and in an environmentally respectful way for our own oil, leading to eight or nine trillion dollars worth of economic positive impact.” However, the bill did not pass the Democratic-controlled US Senate.
On the other hand, Democrat Maggi said America should reduce its debt load by cutting back on redundant government spending and certain foreign aid packages.
“The government accounting office has come up with $200 billion worth of redundant spending, which is people doing the same jobs. Nobody wants to cut that," said Maggi. "We’re giving billions of dollars of foreign aid to countries like Pakistan, who’s been hiding terrorists for the past ten years. We need to look at all that. Nothing can be sacred.”
Maggi said he supports some US involvement in the Syrian conflict, but no “boots on the ground.” The Democrat said he thinks of Iran’s nuclear program as a major concern.
“We need to use diplomatic means. We need to use sanctions. We need to have all options on the table to deal with Iran and a nuclear weapon, just period," said Maggi. "Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon, period.”
For his part, incumbent Murphy says the Obama administration has not done enough to discourage Iran’s nuclear program.
“We have not put enough pressure on Iran, because Iran, which funds the Syrian regime, continues to sell oil to other countries," said Murphy. "The best we could do was beg the Saudis to sell oil to the countries that were hesitant to participate in the sanctions against Iran.”
Murphy claimed the Obama administration encouraged the “Arab Spring” uprisings without a long-term plan for the future. He said the US needs to be “on watch” in Syria, in case terrorists get a hold of chemical weapons caches hidden there.
Social Issues and Backgrounds
Both candidates are anti-abortion and both support the Second Amendment.
Maggi is a former Marine and Washington County Sheriff who says he’s lived in southwestern Pennsylvania all his life. Although a Democrat, Maggi characterizes himself as someone who can work with both parties.
Murphy is a psychologist by trade. In his career, he’s worked with veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues and specializes in child psychology.
The Republican has history on his side. Murphy has easily fended off Democratic challengers in the past five elections, but Maggi remains hopeful he can pull off an upset.