Houlahan v. McCauley: A contrast in platforms, tenor
● By Richard Gaw
In separate addresses that focused on the big-picture designs of their respective campaigns, Democrat Chrissy Houlahan and Republican Greg McCauley, candidates for the Sixth Congressional District seat in Pennsylvania, served as keynote speakers at the Southern Chester County Chamber of Commerce's Fall luncheon on Oct. 18 at the Mendenhall Inn.
Held before more than 150 leaders in business, non-profit service organizations and politics, the forum served as a campaign stop for two candidates who are less than three weeks away from an election that will decide who will next occupy the seat that will soon be vacated by Republican Ryan Costello, who in March declared that he would not seek a second term to the office he has held since 2015.
Citing personal and political reasons for his decision, Costello has left the door open to two possible successors: Houlahan, the Air Force veteran and former business leader who has become the “rock star” model for a large band of first-time, mostly-female candidates seeking to turn the U.S. House blue; and McCauley, a local tax attorney and businessman, whom the Republican National Congressional Committee identified as one of the party’s “young guns” — candidates they have high hopes for in the mid-term election on Nov. 6.
Identifying herself as a fellow businesswoman and entrepreneur, Houlahan pointed out her eclectic background that began when she served as a captain in the U.S. Air Force, following her grandfather and father in what she called “the family business.”
After moving with her family to Chester County, she became the COO of And1 Basketball in Paoli, a basketball apparel and footwear company.
“It was my privilege there to grow quality, good jobs where everyone had health care,” she said, “including families, where everyone had four weeks of vacation, where everyone had 40 hours a year of community service, and where we focused five percent of our profits on philanthropic efforts, because everyone needs a good education.”
She then spoke about her time as a public school teacher in North Philadelphia.
“I'm hopefully showing you a continual line of service,” she told the audience. “I believe that defending your country, or serving your community by creating great jobs, or serving by educating our next generation, is what we all are asked to do as adults in our community, and that our government should be asked to do the same thing.
“I believe, frankly, that our government is not doing that now, and I'm hopeful that I'll take my service background and real-world experience to Washington.”
Houlahan then segued into the tenets of her campaign platform, beginning with seeking ways to provide quality, affordable healthcare.
“It's clearly the single biggest issue that we have in our community,” she said. “I've been been running for Congress for about 650 days, and I've seen that it's our biggest issue. It's something that everyone – business owners, employees and my kids and retirees – are asking for.”
Believing that access to healthcare is a right, Houlahan said that the Affordable Care Act “is being strangled on the vine,” and needs bi-partisan solutions, including public options and opening up avenues for government to negotiate with Big Pharm on stabilizing prescription costs.
Houlahan then shone light on the impact the growing labor shortage issue will have on the local economy, particularly in the mushroom-growing industry. She proposes a comprehensive, bi-partisan immigration plan that allows people to come to the U.S. to fill those job openings, and to develop methods of providing educational opportunities that train individuals for those required jobs.
Perhaps the key reason that has brought Houlahan to this stage of her campaign – where she holds a comfortable lead in several polls, including The Cook Report – was never mentioned in her remarks, but it does appear on her campaign literature.
“After serving in the Air Force, creating quality jobs in Pa., and teaching in North Philly, I never thought I would run for office,” it reads. “But after President Trump was elected, I knew I had to continue to serve my country and fight for my community.”
From the time Houlahan announced her candidacy, her campaign has hitched a ride on the collective wave of women – 197 Democrats and 59 Republicans – who have qualified for the Nov. 6 ballot in House and Senate races, and while not all are speaking the same tune, most are running in opposition to Trump's policies and the often divisive nature of his rhetoric.
“I am campaigning for decency,” she told the audience. “We need to bring our country back together. We need to heal our nation, because right now, we're divided like we've never been before.”
If Houlahan had hoped to escape the Mendenhall Inn last Thursday without a whiff of the accusatory rhetoric that has marked Trump's presidency – she did not. Throughout his address, McCauley repeatedly attacked his opponent on a number of issues, and at one point, referred to Houlahan as having a “Socialist platform,” and called her a candidate who “has been bought and paid for by the Democratic Party.”
As part of his address, McCauley referred to a 13-year-old report that linked Houlahan's And 1 company to the findings of a 2004 report by the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, that alleged Chinese factories owned by the company and the Taiwan-based Pou Chen Group were exposing employees to abusive working conditions.
"Google it. 'Sweatshop labor.' All you have to do is look it up,” McCauley told the audience.
McCauley then went after the source of Houlahan's campaign contributions, telling the audience that 90 percent of her war chest comes from outside of the 6th District, and that a large bulk of it comes from unions, political action committees, the Democratic National Committee, as well as Minority House Leader Nancy Pelosi and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
“She's going to bring Washington values here,” McCauley said. “I am the opposite. My funds came from here. Less than 10 percent came from Washington.”
Calling himself a problem solver, McCauley said if he is elected to Congress, he will work to decrease the student debt crisis by proposing that Congress lower the interest rate for students loans from near its current 7 percent to 2.3 percent – legislation that if passed would cut student debt by 75 percent, which he said “will allow these young students to live the American Dream – buy a home, start a family and move on.”
McCauley, a 35-year attorney and former small business owner, joined two of Chester County's largest talking point controversies together – the immigration crisis in America and the need to fill jobs in the local agricultural industry – by proposing that the 25 million undocumented citizens in the U.S. be allowed to purchase work visas, that will allow them to remain in country, but not allow them citizenship or the right to vote.
The visa, McCauley told the audience, will allow these workers to “join the fabric of America, which will enable them to work,” he said. “It's a compassionate solution to a very difficult problem. It's not amnesty. It's not citizenship, and it's not a right to vote. It's a right to work and participate, to live safely here. It will bring $50 billion to $100 billion every year to the national revenue, without taxing the public.”
McCauley's platform also includes a considerable attention to cleaning up the healthcare industry, by way of lowering healthcare premiums, finding ways to increase quality care and eliminating fraud. In speaking about the “middle man” presence that has corrupted the American prescription drug industry, McCauley used the example of the production of saline, which is made in the U.S. and sold in other countries for about the U.S. equivalent of $29 a container.
“What do you think it is here?” he asked the audience. “Five-hundred and nine dollars. We're going to tighten the belt on them. We're going to get in the numbers, work really hard, and manage our system better.”
McCauley said that he sees the potential to re-invigorate what he called “original thought” in Washington, D.C., a component of government he said hasn't been part of the “common wheel” of government for a long time.
“We expect our politicians to work together,” he said. “We expect them to work across the aisle, and we know it's not happening. We all know there is dysfunction in Washington. Congress is so dysfunctional that our problems have become crises. There is a budget crisis, a debt crisis, a student loan crises, an immigration crisis, a health crisis and, worst of all, there is an opioid crisis.
“With my vast experience, these are not crises, but opportunities for American unity,” McCauley added. “This is a chance for us to come together, to work together, and solve these crises. I see them as issues, issues to be solved.
“I'm going to take Chester and Berks County values to Washington,” he added. “I'm going to take my ideas to Washington to help your business and your families live a better life.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet the Candidates for the Pa. Sixth District
Personal: Married father of four boys
Career: Tax attorney with 35 years of experience; small business owner with 21 years of experience, who owned and operated Golds Gym and 9 Wendy's franchises
Facebook: McCauley For Congress
Economy: Favors a balancing of the Federal budget, continuing a push to lower tax burdens on Pennsylvania families, and keeping jobs at home
Healthcare: Wants to lower healthcare premiums, increase the quality of care, and eliminate fraud and abuse
Immigration: Wants to issue work permits to undocumented currently in the United States, which would not qualify them for citizenship or right to vote, but hold them to paying taxes
Small Business: Wants to make it easier for small businesses to start, grow and borrow money
Personal: Married mother of two daughters
Career: Former captain in the U.S. Air Force; served as COO of AND1 apparel and footwear company; taught high school chemistry in North Philadelphia; president and COO/CFO for Springboard Collaborative, a nonprofit focused on improving early childhood literacy in underserved communities all across the country
Healthcare: Believes that Congress should be working to expand access to healthcare and to control costs through sound competitive practices in drug development and distribution, and hospital management
Education: Believes that local, state and national government needs to support affordable, high quality education, through a fully funded, revitalized public school system
Economy: Wants to construct and advance programs that improve economic security for Pennsylvania families
Money in Politics: Wants
to make campaign finance reform a top priority, limit the
influence of special interests, and keep foreigners and foreign
governments from influencing elections
Environment/Climate Change: Supports protection of the environment, and will work to combat the threat of climate change and the assault on truth and data
Veteran's Support: Supports providing military with best training and equipment, and that commitment to deployment and combat should be used as the last resort. Supports services that retrain veterans into civilian employment, and supports counseling and medical care for veterans
Women's Health: Wants to pass paid family and medical leave; supports the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act; wants to protect Planned Parenthood clinics; and fight back against efforts to undermine Roe v. Wade