LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Incumbent Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth and Republican challenger Vickie Yates Brown Glisson, former Secretary for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, took to their podiums Wednesday night for a live congressional debate at the League of Women Voters candidate forum.
Yarmuth’s run for Congress his seventh; he was first elected in 2006. Yarmuth is also the ranking member on the House budget committee, which could come into play if Democrats regain control of the House this year. Glisson served as the secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services from 2016 to early 2018 and is a healthcare lawyer by background.
The debate, moderated by WFPL’s Ryland Barton and WAVE 3 News' David Mattingly, had questions ranging from immigration, healthcare and gun control to the controversy surrounding newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Immigration policy dominated headlines nationally as well as in the Metro over the summer--for 17 days, Occupy ICE protesters camped outside Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices in downtown Louisville to protest the children of illegal immigrants being separated from their parents at the border. So it was fitting that the debate began with questions on immigration.
When asked if zero tolerance policies, abolishing ICE, or building border walls are what the country needs to address immigration, the candidates' responses varied. Neither wants to abolish ICE and both talked about immigration reform.
Yarmuth said a comprehensive immigration program is needed, while Glisson’s response focused on border control.
“None of those steps are what we need to correct the American immigration system,” Yarmuth said.
“The answer is not abolishing ICE, the answer is not creating a border wall. What we need is a comprehensive immigration program that allows immigrants to come into the country on a reasonable basis,” Yarmuth said.
“I agree that children should not be separated from their parents,” Glisson said. “I don’t agree with that. But I do think we need to address our immigration laws. Our immigration laws need to be fixed.”
“I don’t know that we need an actual physical wall, but we must secure the borders of this country,” Glisson said.
The Republican candidate also went out of her way to clearly establish her platform on so-called ‘Sanctuary Cities.'
“I also want to make it clear that I do not support Sanctuary Cities,” Glisson said.
The debate continued with questions on healthcare.
“Vickie has given me credit for being the architect of the Affordable Care Act. I would love to take credit for it,” Yarmuth said, “I had a lot of help on that. I’m proud of the fact that 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions no longer have to worry about getting insurance, that 90,000 Louisvillians now have coverage who didn’t have it before, that there are no longer any lifetime caps on benefits, so that a cancer diagnosis or serious injury doesn’t bankrupt a family.”
“Whenever they forced states to expand Medicaid, it did not have enough funding. So what it leaves, it leaves the states in a position of not being able to afford Medicaid. And I was one of those who had to save Medicaid and we did that through the waiver, and I want to make it perfectly clear that no one was thrown off of Medicaid or no one will be removed from Medicaid,” Glisson said.
On gun control, the two candidates are polar opposites--Glisson has an 'A' rating from the NRA, while Yarmuth has an ‘F'. When asked about their idea of ‘common sense gun control’, both candidates had some changes in mind.
“I was part of the group that organized a sit-in on the house floor just to tray and get a vote on universal background checks. Just to get a vote on keeping people on the terrorist watch list or the no-fly list from buying guns, to limit magazine capacity. All of these things are common sense measures we can take,” Yarmuth said.
“We need to make sure people get mental health services. Then we also need to make sure with those mental health services that we address the law that can sometimes keep individuals that have a need to know from being able to access that information.,” Glisson said. “So if there is someone who is having erratic behavior, we need to make sure that information can get to someone who has an absolute need to know.”
The candidates also talked about the #MeToo movement and the Kavanaugh confirmation. They were asked specifically--did they believe the women?
“I felt that Ms. Ford’s testimony was credible. I felt that she felt that something had happened. Whether Justice Kavanaugh was that person or not, I don’t know. But I felt that she was credible and I felt that she was giving truthful answers,” Glisson said.
“I don’t think there was any question that she had no motivation to make up the story. And I really think it’s disingenuous to say that you believe something happened to her but she may have been mistake as to who it was. That says to me you didn’t believe her. I believe her," Yarmuth said.