On April 18th Transylvania University hosted the first and only debate between the candidates for the Democratic nomination for the 6th Congressional District of Kentucky. There are three candidates for the nomination: Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, State Senator for the 13th District Reggie Thomas, and Lt. Colonel (Ret.) Amy McGrath.
The forum, which was moderated by Hey Kentucky host Matt Jones, focused on policy questions.
On healthcare, Senator Thomas committed to fighting for a ‘Medicare-for-all’ plan, which would replace the currently US healthcare system with a single-payer healthcare system. (Single-payer healthcare refers to a healthcare system in which there is a single provider—in this case the US government—which can set prices for medical goods, like drugs, and services, like doctors’ visits or surgeries). Sen. Thomas noted that the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicare both function as single-payer plans for parts of the population, and offered this as evidence that a single-payer could be an effective option for the US.
Col. McGrath endorsed a public option, which would preserve private healthcare markets, but also allow the option for people to purchase a government-controlled healthcare plan; Col. McGrath referred to this as an “Uncle Sam Plan.” She also endorsed the idea of a Medicare buy-in for those 55 or older, effectively allowing those who bought in to the program to access the healthcare coverage provided to Medicare recipients in exchange for a monthly premium, much like a private individual healthcare plan.
Mayor Gray endorsed making incremental changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA; also known as Obamacare), including reinstating a medical device tax to raise funds that would help offset other healthcare costs.
On the topic of student debt, Mayor Gray said that he would support the ability to re-finance student loans.
Sen. Thomas endorsed a tax on arbitrage exchanges (a type of financial tool) to fund free college education for all.
Col. McGrath supported expanding funding for educational programs in exchange for public service. Such a program currently exists for military veterans under the G.I. Bill, and has existed since shortly after the end of the Second World War.
When asked to re-litigate the 2016 Democratic primary race, each of the candidates noted that they voted for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, though each was unsure if they would take the same vote again if they had another chance.
In their opening and closing statements, each candidate emphasized their campaign message. Senator Thomas positioned himself as an advocate for people who feel that the Democratic Party has left them behind. Mayor Gray focused on his commitment to bring different groups together. Col. McGrath argued that the 6th District needed better leaders.
Several Transylvania students attended the debate, and spoke with The Rambler afterwards. Most came into the debate supporting Col. McGrath. When asked whether the debate did anything to change her mind, McGrath supporter and Transy senior Claire Gardner simply replied, “No.” First-year Sydney Tye said that she was glad that the debate “introduced me to Reggie Thomas,” though she left the debate still supporting McGrath.
Tye said that, as the child of a military family, she appreciated that McGrath “dispelled” the idea that she was not familiar with the district after living on military bases for several years.
You can watch the whole debate above, courtesy of LEX18 News & Hey Kentucky.