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Michigan's 15th congressional district

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The district from 1993 to 2003
The district from 1993 to 2003
The district from 2003 to 2013
The district from 2003 to 2013

Michigan's 15th congressional district is an obsolete congressional district in the state of Michigan.

Historically, the district's politics have been dominated by the Dingell family since its creation after the 1930 United States Census. Its first congressman, John D. Dingell, Sr., was elected in 1932 and served until his death in 1955. His son, John, Jr. won a special election to succeed him.

The 15th district historically had left-of-center voting tendencies. Its last Cook PVI rating was D+13, meaning it supported Democratic candidates at a rate of 13 percentage points greater than the national average.

This district became obsolete for the 113th Congress in 2013 as congressional district lines were redrawn to accommodate the loss of the seat due to redistricting as a result of the 2010 Census. Most of the district's territory, including Ann Arbor and Dingell's home in Dearborn, became part of the new 12th district, which had previously been based in Oakland, and Macomb Counties.

Along with the 1st district and the now-defunct 16th district, the 15th has been historically frequently represented by politicians of Polish descent. Three of the district's six elected representatives (Dingell Jr. was elected twice and before that he was a representative from 16th district, which was later dissolved) have been Polish-Americans.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • PBS39 17th Congressional Debate


Hello, I'm Robert York, Publisher and Editor in Chief of The Morning Call newspaper. Good evening and welcome to what promises to be a spirited Lehigh Valley congressional debate. We've partnered again this year with PBS39 WLVT, Muhlenberg College, and the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce for this special event. Understandably, most of this year's attention is on the presidential race, but the people Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be working with on Capitol Hill also play a very important role in guiding our nation over the next four years. We at The Morning Call and believe it's vitally important to keep Lehigh Valley voters as informed as possible in print, online, and thanks to our partners, even on TV. Remember to vote on November 8th and enjoy the debate. (theme music) Welcome, everyone, to the PPL Public Media Center at PBS39, located at SteelStacks in Bethlehem, and our 17th District congressional candidate debate. The program's format encourages a lively discussion on issues vital to our community. We're joined in the studio by candidates Matt Cartwright and Matt Connolly. Later, the candidates will get a chance to question each other, and we invite our viewers at home and in our live studio audience to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, at @mcall and @PBS39Channel using the hashtag #ElectionLV. Let's start by learning a bit about each candidate. Democratic incumbent Matt Cartwright is 55 years old. He's married to Marion Munley Cartwright and has two sons. Born in Erie, Pennsylvania, he now lives in Moosic. Cartwright graduated from Hamilton College with a Bachelor of Arts in History in 1983 and earned his law degree from University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1986. Cartwright worked as an attorney with Munley, Munley, & Cartwright for 25 years before winning election to the United States House of Representatives in 2012. He currently serves on the House Committee on Appropriations. His Republican challenger, Matt Connolly, is 50 years old. He is single and has one daughter. Born in Bethesda, Maryland, he now lives in Bethlehem Township. Connolly attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the University of Maryland, and Lafayette College. He has worked as a historic building preservation specialist since 1995. Connolly also worked as a professional racecar driver and team owner of Matt Connolly Motor Sports and has been a committeeman in the Northampton County Republican Party since 2014. I'll begin the question-and- the answer portion of the debate with one question for both candidates. Candidates will have one minute to respond. In a presidential election that's been considered divisive and polarizing, are you supporting your candidate-- your party's candidate for president? We will begin in ballot order with Mr. Cartwright. (Cartwright) Sure, um, well, first I want to thank Channel 39 and The Morning Call for sponsoring this debate. You guys do a great job, this is the third one I've been to. I'm looking forward to a--a free and frank exchange of ideas. Um, sure, the presidential-- the top of the ticket is very divisive and polarizing. Um, I am supporting Hillary Clinton for president, um, but I'm open to ideas that come from, um, all sides of the political spectrum. Um, and I think it's important to distinguish my race, and our race from that race, they're dealing with a lot of different, um, dynamics, uh, that I hope we won't have to deal with here, Laura. Mr. Connolly? (Connolly) Oh, I am--I'm definitely supporting Donald Trump, 100%. I think it's become exceedingly clear that only an insider can solve the problems in Washington. Excuse me, only an outsider-- my, gosh, we've got too many insiders in there, because if an insider could have done it, it would have been solved already. Um, not every candidate is perfect, and we're certainly seeing that. However, I think a man who understands business, who has dealt on multiple sides of government and how it gets involved with businesses and personal lives, is the kind of guy we need, who has never held office before, he is not poll-driven, that's the kind of president who I think will not really be so political, but will be more acting in the best interests of America, and that's what we need right now. Thank you both for your responses. Now let's begin the traditional Q&A segment of our debate. Our panelists are Laura Olson, The Morning Call's Washington correspondent and Dr. Chris Borick, a professor of political science and Director of the Institute on Public Opinion at Muhlenberg College in Allentown. Each candidate has one minute to respond to each question. Rebuttal time may be given at the discretion of the questioner, who also may ask a follow-up. We'll follow ballot order to start. Laura, your first question is for Mr. Cartwright. The Obamacare healthcare law has hit snags as private insurers have dropped out of exchanges in some states and amid reports that premiums have risen. What changes to that law, if any, would you support? Sure, uh, Laura, as you know, I've been a supporter of that law, I knew it was going to be painful, a rocky road, uh, there have been very painful moments, like when the computer system shut down, um, when, uh, anticipated future premium hikes were talked about. Those really didn't happen. What happened was, um, so many people are covered by employer-sponsored plans, so many people are covered by Medicare and Medicaid, um, and so many people get, um, get tax rebates with their Obamacare plan, by and large, I think, it's been pretty smooth given kind of the dangers that we faced. I'm still fully in support of people with pre-existing conditions not being able to be aced out of coverage, no life time limit, no penalty for being a woman for having healthcare coverage, I'm for all of that, but in terms of changes in the future, I've said we're going to be tinkering with that for as long as I'm in Congress, and one thing I'd like to see is more competition, perhaps, spurred on by a public option. (McHugh) Mr. Connolly, your response? Well, I guess we're going to see the first thing we completely disagree about. I think the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, has been an absolute disaster. I think it was partially designed to fail because as the President said 15 years ago, he wants a single-payer system. He doesn't like insurance companies. He doesn't think that they are fair. If you want to have a healthcare system that is truly affordable, you have to bring back competition. Every aspect of Obamacare has failed. They said it was gonna reduce premiums by $2,500. It has gone up more than that. You don't even have insurance in a lot of ways, you only have the illusion of insurance, because when your deductible is $8,000, and your premium is $500 a month, you have to spend $10,000, $12,000 a year before you see any benefit from the Affordable Care Act. Then when you take on the fact that they put limits on what age you can receive, um, cancer treatments, it is--it is not something that is ever designed to succeed, it can't be, it's got to be completely repealed and replaced with something that's competition-based and takes the government out of the doctor-patient relationship. Chris, your first question is for Mr. Connolly. -Good evening, Mr. Connolly. -Good evening, sir. The refugee situation caused by the war in Syria continues to worsen with millions of refugees displaced by the conflict. What role, if any, should the United States play in addressing this con--this refugee crisis? (Connolly) Well, the key part to your question was "if any." The Syrian refugee crisis is caused by unrest in that country. They are in a problem because of the way the government has oppressed them and they want to leave, it's unsafe. Now, I don't believe the answer is to bring them to the United States. I believe we should create a safe area for them, so once the conflict is resolved in Syria, they can return. Those who come to this country as refugees should come because they want to be Americans, they want to love our country, they want to assimilate, not they want to be displaced peoples from another country that now have a place to live. That's not what their goals are, and that's not going to make them happy. It's much safer for us as a nation to keep those people in Syria, protect them from harm until that country's internal turmoil is completely resolved. Then they can return to their lives and that's--that's what everyone really wants, I believe. (Borick) Congressman? (Cartwright) Chris, I think, um, the answer is in striking a proper balance. I want above all to continue our nation's reputation in the world as being a nation full of decency and compassion, um, but you have to strike a--a correct balance. I was over in Germany, I actually had a meeting with, um, Chancellor Angela Merkel. She has really gone way overboard admitting, um, refugees into Germany, and it's causing problems there. Um, I think there's too much and there's too little. I think right now, we're talking about 10,000 in the United States, it's a drop in a bucket, I think we can do a little more, but I think going as far as what Germany did would be problematic. (Borick) Thank you. Laura, your second question is for Mr. Connolly. After several recent mass shootings, there were unsuccessful efforts in Congress to tighten gun laws. What restrictions, if any, would you support when it comes to purchasing guns? If you look at terrorist activities or mass shootings or mass killings of any kind, you'll come to one conclusion: It doesn't matter what is in your hand if there is evil in your heart. The guy in Nice, France, who drove-- the terrorist who killed those hundred people, used a truck. The biggest mass murder in a school was Bath, Michigan, 1940s, he did it with a bomb, he killed 55 people. To demonize an inanimate object like a gun is a mistake. The gun was the tool. In your--sometimes there are knife killings. If there is evil in your heart, it doesn't matter what's in your hand, it's--it's such an obvious statement. Gun control, there--there has never been a terrorist shooting, a school shooting, or any other kind of mass shooting that there weren't countless gun laws broken. There was no shooting where someone said, "Ah-ha, if we only had the law, that wouldn't have happened." And by the way, criminals do not follow gun laws. (Olson) Mr. Cartwright. (Cartwright) Laura, I'm--I'm, it's no secret that I'm in favor of sensible gun safety laws, I think that, um, you know, reasonable, sensible things like, um, taking guns away from people on the terrorist watch list, and I don't even mean taking them away, I mean, no fly, no buy. If the FBI has decided that this person is too dangerous even to board a commercial airliner, I think it's reasonable to suggest that there's a problem selling that same person a firearm in this country, so that's why we call it no fly, no buy legislation. I support that, I also support closing gun show loopholes. I think responsible gun dealers already conduct background checks on the people that they sell guns to and that's also true of-- of gun sellers at gun shows, but not all of them do, and I think that a responsible reaction would be to have-- close that loophole for the gun shows. Chris, we're back to Mr. Cartwright for your second question. (Borick) Congressman Cartwright, the nation's transportation infrastructure continues to struggle with deteriorating conditions. What policies do you advocate to improve the quality of America's roads--roads, rails, and air, um, air travel infrastructure? I am very bullish on all of those things and, um, it's interesting, because Laura mentioned the presidential campaign, and it seems like there's a competition between the Trump and Clinton campaigns on who's going to spend more on beefing up American infrastructure. Um, I'm happy to say that since I've been there, we have authorized more money for surface transportation in this country and highway safety, um, but remember, in Congress you do two things, and I learned this in my last three years, is that you authorize money for certain purposes and then you have to appropriate the money. I'm so proud to have been named to the US House Appropriations Committee, it will put me in a position to appropriate the kind of money, not only for all of America, but particularly here in the Lehigh Valley, and in Northeastern Pennsylvania. We need to make those investments, we need to be grown-up about our roads, our bridges, our highways, our rail systems, all of our infrastructure. (Connolly) You know, that's a very interesting, um, question. I guess some folks in government have very short memories. Because if you recall in 2009, we passed something called the stimulus bill. The stimulus bill was almost a trillion dollars for that very, very question you asked. It was for roads, bridges, highways, airports. Remember the line about shovel-ready jobs? And then the joke afterwards, "I guess they weren't so shovel-ready"? Well, that's kind of a problem when it comes to government. It seems like everyone's forgotten that we have now passed an $868 billion debt to our kids and grandkids and everyone else, for something that apparently had no effect. I don't remember the big touting successes of the stimulus bill. And yet, now they're bringing up, "We need to spend more." Well, what happened to the accountability from the first time, where'd the money go? That's why we're $20 trillion in debt. We can take care of things as needed, but when you're throwing good money after bad, people have to be held accountable, and I don't recall anyone being fired over the lack of transparency with that money. That's what people should be upset about. (Borick) Can I just--quick reply-- Mr. Connolly, so, am I to assume that you would not be in favor of greater investments in infrastructure at this point? (Connolly) I am in favor of an investment in infrastructure because we clearly need it. What I am not in favor of is the way we did it in the past where the money never got there. Laura, your third question goes to Mr. Cartwright. (Olson) As we're talking about spending, Congress was once again, um, staring down another funding deadline the other week, and passed a bill with just days to spare. Um, what specific ways would you propose to break this cycle of lurching from funding crisis to funding crisis? (Cartwright) Sure, um, I touched on it earlier, I'm so proud, I've worked very hard to get on the US House Appropriations Committee, and that's how we handle the spending to fund the government. Remember, Congress' essential role is to levy taxes and spend, and most of what we argue over in the Congress is how much to tax and how much to spend, who to tax, and how much to tax them, and where to spend the money. Um, on the Appropriations Committee, I will have a central role in that, um, and what I want to do is work with Republicans. I've had some success working with Republicans, I actually passed my own bill this year, working with Republicans, and, um, working together, we can go back to the normal appropriations process and stop this continuing resolutions stuff that happens, as you mentioned-- on every deadline, they wait until last minute and then they do a continuing resolution and they say, "Well, whatever we've been spending so far, we'll do that again until December," -that's the answer. -Mr. Connolly? Well, it's interesting the continuing resolution problem is really due to a lack of leadership. We've had--we haven't had a budget, a proper budget-- I think we've had one or two in the last, um, eight years, and that's because they can't agree. Every--every budget President Obama has submitted has gotten zero votes, I don't believe even Mr. Cartwright has voted for an Obama budget. So, with that kind of gridlock and the fact that we don't have a balanced budget amendment, this is what's gonna happen. And what's so interesting is there is never any savings, there's never any cuts, it's always more spending after more spending after more spending, and at some point, we're gonna run out of other people's money or we're gonna devalue our own currency, and what it takes is responsible business-oriented leadership. People who have run businesses like myself and-- and to plug the guy, like Donald Trump, who understands that you have to be accountable and sometimes you have to make hard decisions that involve cuts. But those cuts don't have to be Draconian or anything else, they simply have to involve waste, fraud, and abuse, which is always the low-hanging fruit. We start there and we move forward. Chris, your third question -is for Mr. Connolly. -Great. Mr. Connolly, what if any differences do you have with the policy positions put forth by your party's nominee for president? (Connolly) Um, you--you would have to name some of them, there's quite a few. Is there anything that comes to mind, as far as-- Is there any positions that you could think of compared to Donald Trump's that you might have a difference with? (Connolly) I know there's been some--some, um, vague discussion about spending. As you're gonna probably learn tonight, I'm a fiscal conservative, tremendously. I--I don't believe that spending money by the government is the answer. Um, people talk about Keynesian economics. One of the big mistakes they make is that, um, Mr. Keynes said, use surplus from before to prime the pump with deficit spending in the second time. We haven't had a surplus in 20 years, we've only deficit spending. So I think the way to do it is by lowering taxes on the producers, lowering taxes on corporations, and then you'll spur more economic growth, and with that, you'll make it up in volume, you'll get more tax revenue that way. As far as other specific things in the party platform, nothing is coming to mind right now, but feel free to ask if something comes up in your mind. (Borick) Sure, great, I'll turn to Congressman Cartwright. (Cartwright) Um, there's actually along list of things I disagree with about with, um, Donald Trump. (Borick) I'll use Hillary Clinton, your party nominee-- Oh, Hillary Clinton, all right. (Borick laughing) Nothing specific pops to mind right now, and, um, but I will say this, I'm not bashful about disagreeing with, the Chief Executive in my own party. Gosh, within three months of being elected to Congress in, um, in 2012, I was out on the lawn of the-- of the US House protesting President Obama, and the reason was, um, he was offering the Republicans this chained CPI notion. Chained CPI is a fifty-dollar expression that means lower cost of living adjustments for Social Security recipients. I was dead against that, so many of my colleagues were. We were out on the lawn protesting against President Obama within three months of my arriving in Washington, and I'm happy to say it worked, because he withdrew that proposal from the table -in subsequent years. -Just a quick push. Anything with Hillary Clinton that you might have a difference with in terms of her policy positions? (Cartwright) Um, I--I'm definitely moderate on abortion, I'm sure we'll talk about that, um, much more moderate than she is. Laura, your next question goes to Mr. Connolly. (Olson) Mr. Connolly, what is your position on the pending Pacific trade agreement, known as TPP, and how do you think it would affect the 17th District? (Connolly) I'm against it. Um, although I have to tell you that it isn't-- it hasn't really been made public, there's been bits and pieces that have been allowed to be viewed by the public. I think our trade deals in general have been, um, very biased against American industries and against American workers. I would like to see the world's global trade increase, but when we accept goods from other countries and we don't tax them, and then we try to sell our goods in other countries, and we meet all sorts of trade barriers and tariffs, that's not fair to us. If we really want to increase global trade, we have to have common rules, and one of the issues with the TPP is that it gives foreign workers benefits over American workers, and we're already losing enough jobs as it is to foreign countries and foreign workers. (Olson) Mr. Cartwright. (Cartwright) Well, um, that actually could end up being an area where I end up disagreeing with President Hillary Clinton, if that is a world that we're facing. I tend to agree with my opponent, TPP is not desirable. Um, the problem is that it doesn't contain sufficient protections in two areas that I really care about. Number one, the environment. There are--you know, I've reviewed this agreement very carefully. Um, in fact a lady came over with a diplomatic pouch that I--that had to sit there and watch me while I read it. This is, um, the US trade representative has the rank of ambassador, so it's like an embassy thing. I sat there and I read it, and I saw not enough protections for the environment and not enough protections for labor. I mean, we've arm wrestled over labor rights in this country for three generations, and I don't think we're ready to throw our labor protections and our workplace safety laws out the window just yet. (McHugh) We have enough time for one more question in this portion of the debate. Chris, your fourth and final question goes to Mr. Cartwright. (Borick) Great, thanks, Laura. Um, Congressman Cartwright, the Social Security system has received only modest attention in this election cycle,. What policies do you support in terms of ensuring the long term solvency of the Social Security system? I'm glad you asked that, Chris, it's a huge issue. Um, I would say it's one of the top three issues for me. We have to shore up Social Security, it's really been one of the most successful programs in American history that the government has run. It's kept so many people and seniors out of poverty over the years. Um, but it's, you know, you worry about the solvency going forward into the future. We have not enough young people paying into the system supporting too many older people. Um, you know, like, Mr. Connolly and me, we're getting long in the tooth-- (Connolly) Not that old, pal! (laughing) (Cartwright) But what I'm saying is that we have to shore up the system and, um, one way that I want to do it is that I'm an original co-sponsor of a bill called Social Security 2100, and what this does is it blows the cap on earn--investment in the program up for the highest wage earners, and it also expands cost of living adjustments for seniors, um, because what they are getting now is insufficient. (Borick) Mr. Connolly? (Connolly) Social Security is a very important thing and a lot of people, it's what they lose sleep over, some of the--some of our parents and grandparents. The issue about Social Security is that is does need adjustment. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed it, he even said in 20 years, it's gonna need a lot of changes, and unfortunately, politicians being the basic cowards that they are, are afraid to touch it. Um, one of the things that has--now, you're not a coward, don't get me wrong, um, one of the things that-- that has to happen is there has to be means tests. I mean, Social Security should be seen as insurance. If you don't need it when you get older, you should not receive it. Just like insurance on your house, fire insurance. If you live in your house for 40 years and it never burns down, you don't go and demand your fire insurance policy back. You paid into it for someone else whose house did burn down. Um, so there should be a means test. I believe that the age should be gradually increased, um, but anyone over 50 now who's locked in should, um, should not have to worry about that, and I think there should be some privatization of the funds because Social Security grows at a minuscule rate of less than 1 percent, and that doesn't even keep up with inflation. So we need to have some of the free market, um, increase the value for the people who receive it. (Borick) Thanks. Now we turn to our audience for questions from Muhlenberg College students. We have a representative from the campus Young Republicans and from the Young Democrats. Each will ask one question to both candidates. Freshman Mark Paul of the Young Republicans will go first, and each candidate has 60 seconds to respond. Mr. Cartwright gets the first question. -Mark? -Thank you. The approval rating of Congress is at an all-time low. Name several things you would do to improve that. Well, what--um, Mark, thank you for the question, and, um, you know, the problem with Congress, in referring to Congress generally, is that you forget who's in charge of Congress. Um, right now, the Republicans have been running Congress since 2010, really, fully six years, and, um, sometimes I kind of wish when people talked about the approval rating of Congress, they talk about who's running Congress. So if you say, well, there's an 18 percent approval rating for the current Republican-run Congress, I'd feel a little bit better about that question. Um, but, of course, the other answer is we need to work better together. I do this, I'm proud to say that I have formed friendships with many, many Republicans-- you have to. I mean, they are in charge, they get to decide what votes come up for people to vote on, what bills get pushed, and that's why I formed very many solid friendships with the Republicans, that's how I was able to pass my own bill this year. (McHugh) Now it's Mr. Connolly's turn to respond. (Connolly) Um, what's interesting is he referred to the Republican-led Congress. The reason there was a tidal wave of change in 2010 was because the Democrat-led Congress was even worse. Um, Congress has a low rating because people are frustrated, they want things done and taken care of, but nothing seems to happen because of gridlock. I think what really has to happen for Congress to work is they have to follow the rules. The continuing resolution is a perfect example of Congress not following the rules, they can get away with never having to balance a budget by just spending what they spent last time because it's not their money. So if you want to Congress to increase its approval rating, it's very simple: they have to perform. They have to perform, and they have to make hard decisions. They have to make things that might not be popular right away, but will be good for the long term of the country, and the voters will recognize that. They'll see--okay, that was tough, this might be some pain, but it's gonna be better for us in the long run and we'll all be happier, it's the way families and businesses run themselves. Our next question comes from senior Jake Solari of the Young Democrats. Each candidate will, again, have 60 seconds to respond. Mr. Connolly gets the question first this time. Good evening, and thank you. The opioid epidemic plaguing the communities in the Northeast has become increasingly problematic in the Lehigh Valley. Because methadone offers a physical fix without the associated high, it has become a viable alternative for recovering addicts. However, the current system forces patients to visit daily clinics and receive their dosage, and many of these clinics are so inaccessible to some that daily visits impede on their ability to maintain a full-time job and perform other daily functions. Do you have a plan to make these treatments more accessible? Or, if not, what other treatment alternatives do you propose and how will they be made accessible to patients? Well, your--your addressing that question is a secret that has to come out. I've attended many things in Scranton, some of the heroin awareness. It is a tragedy. In Schuylkill County alone this year I think over 60 people have died from heroin overdoses. Uh, we have to look at why that's happening first of all. Before we solve the problem, we have to look at the root of the problem. Uh, part of the changes in the government's laws about health care is that they use pain as a vital sign, and then they rate doctors. So, doctors wanna prescribe pain meds to make sure they get a high rating. The problem is they're turning regular folks into addicts. Once the prescription runs out, they need to find something for that fix, so to speak, and they often turn to illegal drugs. Um, your question specifically about methadone, it does fill the void, but I'm wondering if they were to have it unregulated and be able to self medicate with that, would that cause its own problem? Um, I think if we attack the problem with the root of the opiate situation, we're gonna find the methadone problem isn't gonna be as prominent. But I don't have a specific solution to methadone, because honestly, I don't know what-- what the aspect of it, you know, how it could be used or abused. (McHugh) Mr. Cartwright? (Cartwright) Uh, Jake, thank you for your question. Um, yeah, I actually conducted a town hall in Schuylkill County about five months ago, uh, and, you know, usually we have-- for town halls we get 30, maybe 40 people that come out. And I thought, wow. In Coaldale, I don't know how many people are gonna come out for a town hall. Uh, Jake, we had over 100 people come out to that town hall. And people from all walks of life. And that's an important thing to note, is that opioid addiction occurs on both sides of the tracks, at all stratuses of life, to people in all walks of life, um, and so what's the answer? The answer is we have to work together with the physician community. I actually have sponsored my own bill that would offer guidelines for prescription of narcotic pain medication, that would put more money toward the availability of Naloxone for first responders and many other issues like that. A lot of other bills like that are out there, but it's a problem we need to tackle head on. We stay with our audience for one more question. This one comes from Danielle Bodnar, Government Affairs Administrator at the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. Each candidate will, again, have 60 seconds to answer. Danielle, Mr. Connolly will have the first question. Good evening, gentlemen. One of the top concerns our Chamber members are forced to focus on a daily basis is workforce development issues. Employers often comment that they are faced with not finding the right talent pool of job seekers who are prepared and ready for employment. The Chamber works with our Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Board on addressing these issues at a local level, but what do you feel is Congress' role on solving these workforce issue problems? Well, it's interesting. With the unemployment rate that we have, you would think that people would be swarming for these jobs. I think what we've kind of drifted away from, we've drifted away from the technical aspect of work. A welder makes more money than a philosopher does, and we need a lot of them. For a long time, I made my living as an auto mechanic, and currently as a contractor. Plumbing, heating, electric, that sort of thing. I put ads for people, and I do have problems getting good helpers. Um, it's not sexy. It's one of those things that people would rather do something on computers or something else entirely. So, really, what it comes down to, I think, at the high school level, we should be emphasizing more skilled trades. I mean, that's what built America, that's what really made this country the powerhouse that it is, but those trades are dying, and if we don't replenish them, we're gonna have an issue, and I think that's what the Chamber is looking at. They're looking at skilled people in various areas who can-- who can fill these roles. And it is a rewarding way to make a solid, middle-class living, which helps buoy the entire of America. (McHugh) Mr. Cartwright? (Cartwright) Uh, well, Danielle, thank you for your question. Uh, sure, that's a place where government can have a real impact on the economy. Uh, if you take Lackawanna College in Scranton, uh, Lackawanna College has tooled itself to train people to go to work in the hydrofracking industry. Right now, they have a placement record of about 98 percent of people graduating from Lackawanna College and going to work in the hydrofracking business, and the average starting salary is over $60,000. So, this is an area that really pays. And so, one of the things that I really support about, uh, Secretary Clinton's campaign is that she wants to pump a lot of money into the former coal regions, because, you know, you have these upheavals, economic change, uh, creases people. People are trained for one thing and that's not around anymore, they have to learn how to do something else. That's how we could put government money to good use to retrain people. Thank you, Danielle. Now, it's time for our candidates to question each other, and we'd like questions here as opposed to speeches. Each is allowed up to six questions. Again, responses will be limited to one minute and you may have up to six questions each. We'll begin with Mr. Cartwright, and you'll have the first question directed to Mr. Connolly. (Cartwright) Thanks, Laura. Matt, I was just mentioning the hydrofracking industry. Uh, what's your position about whether, uh, we should continue the ban on hydrofracking in the Delaware River Water Basin? (Connolly) I would be opposed to that ban. (Cartwright) Okay, uh... (Connolly) Should I elaborate? I'd love to. (Cartwright) I think you get 60 seconds, right? (McHugh) You may have up to 60 seconds. We're new at this. Um, the hydrofracking, I've talked to a number of experts in the industry. It is a very safe process. Uh, you're talking about boring down 10,000 feet, which is well below any river basin, you've got multiple layers of steel and concrete for safety, and what's more important is that you're giving this nation, and specifically this state, a very valuable natural resource that lowers the cost for everybody, because one of the most important things in a developed nation is affordable, reliable, consistent energy. That's what will free us from dependent on foreign governments, and that's, uh, that's what's really gonna make America strong. (McHugh) Mr. Connolly, your first question for Mr. Cartwright. (Connolly) Okay, is a well-respected non-partisan data organization that tracks every member of Congress, their votes, bills, stances, ratings, and other pertinent information. In the four years you've been in office, you have proposed 111 bills and had only one signed into law. You have an effective rating of less than one percent. There is no member of Congress rated lower than you are. How do you justify running for re-election? (Cartwright) Uh, actually the truth is, I have passed four bills. They're not all standalone bills, it's very rare that a member of Congress can pass a standalone bill. I was thrilled to do that this year. Uh, Steve Russell, a Republican from Oklahoma City, and I got together and we passed the Megabyte Act. Uh, the federal government buys software like everybody else, licenses at a time, and what happened was we realized that the federal government's not using its purchasing power to buy software. My bill, which passed into law, President Obama signed it on July 29th, will save taxpayers in this country between $1 billion and $4 billion every year going forward. So, I'm very proud of that. I can't speak to how-- what ratings website's models are, but I can tell you if you go on and you look at me, I'm rated number two out of 180 Democrats, I'm rated number two in effectiveness as being a legislator. (Connolly) Well, the average effectiveness rating is 12%. (McHugh) Mr. Cartwright, your next question for Mr. Connolly. (Cartwright) Sure. Uh, Matt, do you think the FAST Act goes far enough? (Connolly) Could you please explain what the FAST Act is? (Cartwright) Okay, the FAST Act is the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, and what that does is it puts $305 billion into American infrastructure; roads, bridges, making highways safer. Uh, what we did was we authorized $305 billion over the next five years to go into those things. Do you think that went far enough? (Connolly) It goes back to the initial discussion about infrastructure. We've already done a stimulus years ago of $868 billion that doesn't seem to have fixed anything. When government continues to require new and new spending bills to fix the same problem over and over again, you have to question what--what's really going on beneath it. So, I would say that with all these multiple infrastructure bills-- did the FAST Act go far enough? Um, it depends on if it's actually going to get implemented, because they don't ever seem to get implemented. They seem to be a great-- great thing to pass, and then everyone forgets about it, and the next election cycle, "We need more infrastructure spending." So, I think we need a comprehensive review of what we need and what's been spent, and then we'll make a decision. Mr. Connolly, your next question for Mr. Cartwright. (Connolly) It's exceedingly clear that Washington is full of corruption. How do you expect us to believe that you are not part of the corruption when your net worth has more than tripled since you became a member of Congress from $1.5 million to over $5 million? How do you make that kind of money as a congressman? (Cartwright) Um, actually, that's not true. I have not-- It's no secret, completely transparent, members of Congress make $174,000 a year. That has not been raised in, I think, about a decade. Uh, that is my only source of income. My wife, it may be my wife's income that you're looking at. She--she's a hard-working lawyer. I'm very proud of her. Um, but I can guarantee you that I am not doing anything corrupt or anything that would ever embarrass anybody in the Lehigh Valley or the 17th Congressional District or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I look on this job as an honor to do. My aim is to bring honor upon myself and my family, and to do anything that would align myself with anything corrupt is absolute anathema to me. I wouldn't do it, Matt. (Connolly) I appreciate that, thank you. (McHugh) Mr. Cartwright, your next question for Mr. Connolly. (Cartwright) Sure. Uh, Matt, you like to talk about cutting federal spending. I'm proud of my work to increase federal spending here at home because it stimulates our local economy here in the Lehigh Valley and Northeastern Pennsylvania, and it creates jobs. Over $400 million in federal awards, grants, and contracts have come in during my tenure in the Congress. And getting on the Appropriations Committee, which I worked very hard to do, will only assist me in doing more of that, and I intend to do that for the Lehigh Valley. Would you do the same thing? (Connolly) Well, it's funny you mentioned that you're proud of the money you brought in, the question is, where does it come from? It comes from other taxpayers, it comes from other states. Uh, we do not have an infinite supply of money. What we have to do is work on being more efficient as a government. I think if we were to lower taxes and allow businesses to spend more of their own money, if we were to give more control to the states and let state and local government be more in control, they should be the ones who are in charge of what gets done in their state--our job in the federal government is to keep us safe from foreigners, invasion-wise, to enforce civil contracts, and to uphold people's civil rights. I think the federal government has gotten so big and everyone's so proud of how much money they bring, they're forgetting where it comes from. It comes from, basically, from our children and grandchildren. That's a problem. We have to get spending under control not just say there's more of it is better, because at some point you gotta pay that bill. (McHugh) Mr. Connolly, your next question for Mr. Cartwright. (Connolly) You have said on The Storm show hosted by Tiffany Cloud that terrorism and global warming are inextricably linked. Are you trying to tell us that a slight change in temperature has caused the rise of radical Islamists and made them behead, burn, and drown innocent victims? (Cartwright) Well, I think there's definitely a link there. I think I remember saying that, and I believe it to be true. We go back to something called the Arab Spring. And you remember that was when a lot of radicalism was spurred in Egypt and in other places in North Africa. Um, what happened was there wasn't--it was a drought. People didn't have enough to eat, and it doesn't really take a rocket scientist, Matt, to realize that when people don't have enough to eat, they're angry, they're hurting, and they're ready to reach out for radical solutions when they're dangled in front of them. So, what we know is that climate change is having an effect on these areas, and it's only gonna get worse. It's not for us-- it doesn't behoove us to bury our heads in the sand and not worry about climate change when climate change can cause upheavals all over the world that, in fact, can lead to unrest of the type that leads to Islamic terrorism. (Connolly) But Islamic terrorism has been going on for 600 years. They've been beheading people since the Middle Ages. Was global warming a problem then? (Cartwright) I think we're onto the next question. (Connolly) Mr. Cartwright, your next question for Mr. Connolly. (Cartwright) All right. Matt, I mentioned I'm in favor of the Social Security 2100 Act. -Have you reviewed that? -I have not reviewed it. (Cartwright) Well, it strengthens and expands Social Security by raising cost of living adjustments and lifting the income cap for the highest income levels. Uh, you said you wanna cut back on payouts to Social Security recipients. -I did not say that. -By raising the retirement age however gradually you wanna do it. My question is, how is that fair to 65 year olds who have to make their living lifting, and carrying, and climbing? (Connolly) Well, what I did say about changing it is there should be a means test, and I will have to say I do agree with you on the cap, 'cause right now there's an artificially low cap on wage earners that is limiting how much money goes into the system. Um, Social Security was not meant to be a person's retirement income. It often is, but that's more of an indictment on the system we have altogether. I think what is important here is allowing people to work as long as they choose, and then having a means test where those people who don't need the money don't receive it. That--that leaves more in the pot for those people who do need it. Uh, as far as raising the age, there are some people who can work longer, um, others who cannot, that's why we have the Social Security Disability Insurance. Social security is a very important safety net, and it's something that I don't think should be changed in a negative way, but it has to be modified. And these are decisions that have to be made not from the political point of view, but from the realistic point of view, because you talk to a 30 year old today, they say, "I'm not seeing Social Security." And they're probably right. (McHugh) Mr. Connolly, your next question is for Mr. Cartwright again. (Connolly) In 2013, you proposed the SAFE HAUL Act, which was designed to raise the amount of insurance truckers have from $750,000 in liability to $4.4 million. This will increase their insurance premiums by double digits. Can you tell me how this helps the truckers or their families? Or was this just an attempt to increase the amount of money available for your fellow trial lawyers to tap into since, after all, they are your biggest donors? (Cartwright) Well, I am very proud of my efforts to, uh, to get the federal government to raise the insurance requirements for tractor trailers. Right now tractor trailers are allowed to drive around with as little as $750,000 in liability insurance. Uh, and the problem is not the responsible truckers, there are a lot of-- the great majority are responsible and safe truckers, it's the ones who are not safe that you worry about because of the harm they can do. I mean, they--they can do many millions of dollars of damage to people just in terms of medical bills. Uh, raising the insurance requirements will force everybody--will force through the private enterprise system, it'll force insurance companies to look at, uh, at trucking companies with a jaundiced eye and say, "Are you being careful? If you're not being careful, we're gonna raise your rates." That's the--the free market system at work making Americans safe. (McHugh) Mr. Cartwright, we have time for at least one more question to Mr. Connolly, possibly--possibly two. (Cartwright) All right. (clears throat) Matt, I'm for middle class tax relief, but public--public records show that you have failed to pay your federal taxes for some time now, you still have a federal tax lien for just under $50,000 for tax years 2007 and 2008. Uh, many Americans work hard to struggle and make ends meet, work hard and play by the rules. Um, but they don't make excuses, they pay their taxes. Don't they deserve a congressman who doesn't make excuses, but goes ahead and pays his taxes? (Connolly) Well, I believe that you should pay taxes on every penny earned, and I have paid taxes on every penny I've earned. That federal tax lien is due to the IRS, which is the biggest bully in the free world. That was due to an audit that occurred in 2010. They said that because I took a second mortgage on a property, never got a penny for it because the building owner went bankrupt and got foreclosed on-- that I still had to pay taxes on that money that I never received. I then asked them, "Could I deduct that $75,000 from income the next year?" And they said, "Oh, no, you can deduct $3,000 a year for the next 25 years." So, at that point I realized although I could've paid the taxes, I'm a fighter. I don't like it when the government bullies around, and I don't like the fact that they can throw a lien on something without due process. There was never a trial. It was simply their decision. You talk about tax reform, we need tax reform. The IRS people who target those people based on their political ideology, they get off scot-free. We need tax reform, I pay my taxes. (McHugh) Mr. Connolly, at least one more question for Mr. Cartwright. (Connolly) You claim to be pro life, yet you voted against the fetal pain act, against defunding Planned Parenthood, and you even have a 100 percent positive rating from Planned Parenthood. How can you claim to be pro life when every vote you cast is for abortion, and the abortion groups consider you a strong ally? (Cartwright) Well, that's not quite correct. Uh, I don't like abortion, um, and I don't like the labels that people throw around. I, um, I consider myself a moderate on the question. Uh, we have something in this country called the Hyde Amendment, and the Hyde Amendment, um, requires that federal tax money is not paid, uh, to buy abortions. Uh, and that came up for a vote this year, I voted against the measure that would have eliminated the Hyde Amendment, so I'm supporting that. Um, I, uh, I voted against the Pain-Capable Act because it did not make an exception for, uh, incest victims that are, uh, over 18 years old. Um, personally, I don't like abortions, I'm against them, but I make exceptions for rape, incest-- all incest victims-- and the life and health of the mother. And that is my moderate position on abortion. (McHugh) Thank you both. We are out of time for this segment. And we will move on now to our final question of the night which comes from Laura Olson. It will be directed to both candidates and each candidate will have 45 seconds to respond. Mr. Connolly will answer first, then we'll hear from Mr. Cartwright. After a contentious presidential race, the next Congress will get to work with a new administration. In what ways would you be willing and able to work with that administration if it's, uh, made up of the opposite political party? Well, we can certainly hope that it's not made up of the opposite political party. Um, you have to look at how you work with folks. If they really have the true values for the country, and it's not a political agenda, working across the aisle should be simple. It's when things are couched or phrased in a certain way that make it seem like they want something, but don't really. As I mentioned before, with Obamacare, that was pretty transparent that it was not going to solve any problems, it was there to break the system. I'm concerned when any party has-- has a view on something that they put out publicly, but their agenda is something different. And I think that's where it's gonna take some people who have the guts to make non-political decisions and act on them in order to do the right thing. Because we're all Americans, we're all in this together. We just have to realize that the good of the country should come first. (McHugh) Mr. Cartwright. (Cartwright) Is the question how would I work with President Trump? -That's the question. -Okay. (audience laughs) Well, I guess I--I should say that it's hard to say, because he's kind of, um... changed his positions on certain things. I mentioned earlier that one thing that I kind of find encouraging about Donald Trump is that he wants to spend more on infrastructure than Hillary Clinton. Uh, which--so they may be in, like, a little competition about who is gonna spend more on infrastructure, that's music to my ears. Um, so if--if Donald Trump wants to do that, I'll probably find myself in his camp. (McHugh) Our last piece of business tonight is a one minute closing statement from each candidate. We'll give the challenger the last word, and start with Mr. Cartwright. Thanks, Laura, and thanks, everybody, for tuning in, uh, for this debate. I enjoy the discussion and, uh, you mix it up a little bit, but that's what democracy is like. It's messy, um, sometimes it isn't clean, but this is what we have, and this is the best system in the world, our democracy. It's been a real honor for me to represent the 17th Congressional District for almost the last four years now. It was my first time running for office for anything, uh, I wasn't completely sure what to expect, um, but I have worked hard at it, I am so proud that I've been appointed to the House Appropriations Committee, I did that through nothing but hard work and attention to detail. I intend to further the most important issues to me: jobs and the economy, taking care of our veterans, our active duty armed services, uh, worrying about things like Zika, the opioid crisis, uh, public health problems like that, I will continue to work hard for you as long as you keep me in office. Mr. Connolly, we now have one minute for your closing statement. (Connolly) Well, thank you, this has been a real honor, a real pleasure. I think we've seen that there are two very clear choices on display tonight. The incumbent is happy to defend things as they are, and even endorses Hillary Clinton for president, who has the same stale ideas that didn't work when Obama tried them. In fact, I'm not even running against my opponent, I'm running for the people of the 17th District, and for all Americans. For the values that got this country to be the envy of the world where anyone could grow up to be anything he or she wanted to be. I'm running for the dignity that comes with getting people off of welfare and earning a living. (clears throat) That's what comes when people--excuse me, that's what brings down crime rates and boosts the economy. People working for a living and knowing the future's in their hands, not in some bureaucrat's. It's these values that made the rest of the world respect us, kept rogue nations at bay, and help free countries that were ready to taste liberty. The idea that America the Beautiful isn't old, or worn out, or even slightly less "hip," it's as relevant today as it ever was, we just need the people in Washington to recognize that and to give us that freedom back to us, to we the people. Thank you. That concludes our 17th District congressional candidate debate. PBS39 would like to thank the candidates for participating. Our panelists, Laura Olson, and Dr. Chris Borick, and our partners The Morning Call, Muhlenberg College, and the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. Please join us on Tuesday, October 11th, at 7:00 p.m. for our 15th District congressional candidate debate featuring incumbent Republican Charlie Dent, Democrat Rick Daugherty, and Libertarian candidate Paul Rizzo. The deadline to register to vote is October 11th and Election Day is November 8th. Thank you. (audience applauds)


Major cities from 2003 to 2013


Election results from presidential races
Year Office Results
2008 President Obama 66 - 33%
2004 President Kerry 62 - 38%
2000 President Gore 60 - 38%
1996 President Clinton 87 - 10%
1992 President Clinton 82 - 13%

List of representatives

Representative Party Tenure Congress Note
District Created March 3, 1933
John D. Dingell, Sr..gif
John Dingell Sr.
Democratic March 3, 1933 – September 19, 1955 73rd
Vacant September 19, 1955 – December 13, 1955 84th
John Dingell earlier official portrait.gif
John Dingell
Democratic December 13, 1955 – January 3, 1965 84th
Redistricted to the 16th district
William D. Ford.jpg
William D. Ford
Democratic January 3, 1965 – January 3, 1993 89th
Redistricted to the 13th district
Barbara Rose Collins.jpg
Barbara-Rose Collins
Democratic January 3, 1993 – January 3, 1997 103rd
Redistricted from the 13th district;
Lost renomination
Carolyn Cheeks Kirkpatrick, official portrait, 111th Congress.jpg
Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick
Democratic January 3, 1997 – January 3, 2003 105th
Redistricted to the 13th district
John Dingell
Democratic January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2013 108th
Redistricted from the 16th district;
Redistricted to the 12th district
District Eliminated January 3, 2013


  • U.S. Representatives 1837-2003, Michigan Manual 2003-2004
  • Martis, Kenneth C. (1989). The Historical Atlas of Political Parties in the United States Congress. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.
  • Martis, Kenneth C. (1982). The Historical Atlas of United States Congressional Districts. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.
  • Congressional Biographical Directory of the United States 1774–present

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