Lois Murphy, the Democratic candidate for the 6th congressional district, is running for a spot in the House of Representatives. Her opponent is the Republican incumbent, Jim Gerlach. The race is considered one of the closest races in the nation. As of September 28, Gerlach is ahead in the polls 44% to Murphy’s 41%, with a margin of error of 5. Taking into account the margin of error, the two candidates are tied. Polls for this month show the candidates trading the lead from one day to the next. The numbers have not changed much since then. As Election Day gets closer, the candidates are trying to get an edge over the other. Aside from the propaganda that each of the candidates have used, they have also engaged in two debates.
The first debate took place on October 21, 2006 at the Desmond Hotel at Malvern in front of 180 people. The hot topics in the debate included taxes, health care and, not surprisingly, the war in Iraq. One of their biggest disagreements was over the war in Iraq. Gerlach accused Murphy of not being clear on what her plan was for Iraq. He also stated that she was unsure as to what to do about troops in Iraq. He said “She apparently doesn’t want to withdraw them and she’s not sure she wants to fund them, either.” Murphy shot back that she had never said she would not fund the troops; she simply was against the war and called for a change in the policy on Iraq. Murphy is sure that following the 9/ll Commission recommendations would help solve the problem of Iraq. Some of the Commission’s recommendations include working towards a long-term safe and secure Afghanistan and Pakistan. Unfortunately, the Commission’s 2004 report, which compiles data from in-depth investigations about 9/ll and the CIA and FBI’s roles before and after 9/11, has been criticized, among other things, for being biased and using the report for partisan purposes. If these criticisms are true, this would make the Commission’s report unreliable. A second issue which the candidates debated on was the tax cuts. Gerlach said that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts have helped turn the economy around. Murphy, however, disagreed with this analysis. She argued that the tax cuts did not help the middle class. Instead, she argued, more than 50% of the money went to the top 10% of the income-earners. Health care was another issue which the candidates disagreed on. Gerlach expressed his support for medical-liability reform which would help cut medical costs. He also called for “giving small-business owners more opportunity to purchase health coverage through a national cooperative”. Murphy, on the other hand, prefers to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices. Gerlach states that this would not save money.
October 27 marked the day of Gerlach and Murphy’s second debate. This debate was taped in the 6 ABC television studio. Again, the candidate’s biggest disagreement was over the war in Iraq. One of the things Gerlach emphasized about the war is that he agrees with the Bush administration policies but he assures voters that he wants Iraqis to know they don’t have a ‘”blank check” in American tax dollars’. Murphy responded by saying that the current administrations policies have proved to be a failure. Policies such as “the special interests for CAFTA and unfair labor laws, with the drug companies to stop Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices, and for big tax breaks for big oil” should be changed, according to Murphy. Murphy, however, has yet to outline a clear-cut plan on how to go about doing this. The candidates also disagreed on what to do with the open land in the 6th district and on the issue of illegal immigrants. Gerlach favors building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico but Murphy does not favor this approach. These two debates proved to be good ground for both candidates to finally clarify their stands on various issues. However, it can be argued that neither candidate won these debates. Neither candidate outlined plans for any issues. This gives the impression that the candidates are unprepared and do not have a clear idea of what they wish to accomplish once in office. Since the poll numbers are so close, it is difficult to predict which candidate will win the election.