Toward the end of Sunday night’s debate between the Democratic candidates for the 1st Congressional District, moderator Joy Cardin asked how two progressives could appeal to voters in a district that leans to the center-right.
Randy Bryce said government should lift people up, and he favors policies that help working people.
Cathy Myers said she would make sure she spends a lot of time listening to constituents, something she said she is doing on the campaign trail.
Those responses were brief. The candidates talked a lot more during their 90 minutes on stage at Badger High School, detailing positions that will play well with Democratic partisans in the Aug. 14 primary.
But they did display a few differences.
Both called for universal background checks for gun purchases and banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.
“We have a right in this country to go to school and not be shot, a right to walk down the street, to go to church or to the mall or to a concert. ... This isn’t a Second Amendment issue at all. This is about money and being able to sell guns,” Myers said.
Bryce said he owns a gun and supports hunters.
“The majority of hunters are responsible, and they understand the need for common-sense gun control, most of them,” he said.
Bryce also signaled a willingness to work with anyone to keep jobs from going overseas. He said it’s the only issue on which he agrees with President Donald Trump, although he said Trump is going about it all wrong.
Myers said nothing about working with Trump.
For most of the night, however, the ironworker from Caledonia and schoolteacher from Janesville kept the audience of about 400 happy with liberal-leaning answers.
They both say they would protect Medicare and Social Security.
Both detest the recent tax bill that they say benefited the wealthiest in society.
Both would make changes to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
Both deplored the separation of children from parents as asylum seekers come to the Southern border.
If you’re not crying “bloody murder” about that policy, “you don’t get to claim family values,” Bryce said.
Both spoke of their background in unions. Both called for investments in roads, light rail and other infrastructure, as well as “green” energy to create jobs.
Bryce said high-speed internet should be part of that infrastructure, and to pay for all that, “we need to make those who profit the most pay their fair share. That’s how we get it done.”
Bryce added later: “Pay your fair share so we don’t have to work till we drop dead.”
Myers called for a minimum wage of $15 an hour. She said it’s unconscionable that so many people like her two children, who are struggling with college debt, can’t get jobs to pay their bills.
Both want “Medicare for all” as a way to provide universal coverage.
The country needs not only a clean DREAM Act for people brought into the country illegally as children, but another law for their parents, Bryce added.
Myers agreed, calling for a “path to citizenship” for parents.
“ICE is made up of a lot of thugs. It really is,” Myers said, adding that the agency needs to be a part of the Justice Department, like the FBI.
Myers several times took jabs at Bryce. Bryce responded but otherwise stayed away from infighting.
Myers said Bryce at one time supported police helping ICE do its job.
Bryce responded that his father is a retired cop and that he once said law enforcement should be given all the tools it needs.
People trying to cross the border are trying to better their lives and are not criminals, Bryce added.
Both candidates pledged not to take donations from the National Rifle Association or fossil fuel companies.
But Myers accused Bryce, who had pledged not to take money from corporate political action committees, of taking a donation from a PAC funded by General Dynamics, which has a subsidiary that took care of children who were separated from their parents at the border.
Bryce said he was not aware of any contribution from General Dynamics.
Myers accused Bryce of once supporting oil pipelines because of the jobs they bring.
Bryce didn’t seem to deny it. He said he would not feel comfortable working on an oil pipeline and opposes new pipelines.
Bryce said impeaching the president is “not off the table.”
Myers said she would vote to impeach. She said there are cases to be made that the president violated the Constitution by profiting from foreign deals while in office and likely obstruction of justice.
Both candidates endorsed working toward a clean-energy economy.
Myers and Bryce will face off in the Aug. 14 Democratic primary. The winner will take on the Republican Party primary victor and independent candidate Ken Yorgan.