After months on the campaign trail from Chesterfield to Culpeper, Republican Dave Brat and Democrat Jack Trammel returned to Randolph-Macon College Tuesday, days before one of the candidates will leave for a new career on Capitol Hill.
Both Brat and Trammell are Randolph-Macon professors, have played on the same intramural basketball team, and stood before an auditorium packed with current and former students during the campaign’s only debate.
“I’m hesitant to act out of fear,” said Trammell in the first response of the debate. “I think we’ve largely been responding correctly, but I do support targeted flight bans.”
Brat quickly contended federal authorities have not done enough.
With both candidates given two minute response times for each question, the debate quickly moved to Obamacare, as Trammell and Brat delivered some of their most heated responses.
“I would vote to repeal and replace Obamacare immediately,” Brat said. “It’s disrupted healthcare for 250 million Americans… It hasn’t solved our E.R. problem, and the promise of being able to keep your doctor has not been true.”
Although Trammell supported the aim of the Affordable Care Act, he distanced himself from the president and said he would work to fix issues with the healthcare law.
“President Obama is not on the ballot in this district, I just wanted to make sure everybody knows that,” Trammell said. “We’ve helped out eight million Americans who never had insurance, the original intent of the law.”
“The immigrants we would legalize would help this country,” Trammell said. “But we need comprehensive reform.”
Brat countered that in order to keep America great, the rule of law should be preserved, and applied equally to children and families who illegally cross the southern border.
“If you have true compassion, let’s get the economies of Latin America going again,” Brat said. “I do not favor a pathway for 10 million people to illegally gain entry.”
Following immigration, the moderators posed a critical question - How will either candidate ensure that Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and Medicare Part D are still funded 15 years from now – without bankrupting the federal government?
“It's the number one issue I ran my campaign on,” Brat said. “Spending $127 trillion by 2030 and bankrupting the federal budget is the most pressing economic problem that our country faces, by far.”
Brat said his credentials as an economist would help him to solve the problem. But Trammell fired back, saying simply working across the aisle is the first step to getting anything done.
“We need a bipartisan effort on Capitol Hill, to work together, to balance our annual budget, and we spread outwards from there,” Trammell said.
In the debate’s final moments, both candidates thanked Randolph-Macon for hosting the event, and fondly reflected on the college nestled in the “center of the universe,” as Ashland brands itself.
“I miss this place,” said Trammell. “But I hope I’m not coming back.”