Candidates spar over abortion, health care

Ottaway, Joyce vying for Shuster’s seat

BEDFORD — Those vying for Rep. Bill Shuster’s seat touted their candidacy and shared their stance on a wide array of issues at a forum Friday.

Democratic candidate Brent Ottaway and Republican candidate John Joyce debated at the Bedford Elks Country Club on Second Amendment rights, marijuana legalization, abortion, health care and the effectiveness of Congress, among other topics.

Ottaway described himself as a former Republican converted to a moderate Democrat who is willing to “work across the aisle” and compromise. He said he ran to offer voters more options in elections.

“This run I am making for Congress started more than 20 years ago when my wife, Ellen, and I had conversations about our growing frustration that there is often no choice at the ballot box,” Ottaway said. “So we talked about 20 years that one of us, one day, would do this. Ellen died two years ago. So it’s up to me.”

“I am pleased to follow through,” he added of his candidacy.

The Democratic candidate said his top three legislative priorities are ensuring there is health care for all, leveling the playing field for all Americans regardless of socioeconomic class, boosting the economy and educational opportunities.

His opponent, Joyce, promoted his candidacy by drawing from his experience as a doctor, stressing he is someone who will listen to concerns.

“Pennsylvania 13 is a newly designed congressional district. It’s expansive, but the problems are uniform throughout,” Joyce said. “The impetus for me to run to be your next representative was primarily health care. Health care is an issue that is overwhelmingly important, not just to the people here in Bedford County, but the people throughout south central Pennsylvania.”

“Our health care is no longer affordable or accessible. As a doctor and as a common sense conservative, I realize the importance of working with the people and providing health insurance and health care for those who want it at an affordable rate,” he added.

The Republican candidate said his top three priorities are implementing a fair market plan for health care, strengthening the military and backing a pro-business model with workforce development.

Marty Malone, the chairman of the Bedford County Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee, said the chamber hosted the forum to have candidates discuss issues that affect businesses and communities ahead of the “pivotal races” of the general election.

“My hope is that there is a huge turnout at the polls this year because it matters,” Malone said. “I think it matters because now is the time when we have a voice. We have the opportunity to make a difference not after the elections, but now.”

Martha Helsel, an event attendee, said she came to the forum to educate herself about those running for office. “I think it’s a great responsibility for all citizens to know what the issues are and what the candidates say about them.”

“My parents raised me that if you are going to be a United States citizen, you need to take the responsibility and vote,” she said, adding her mother voted in the last election before dying later that day.

While both Ottaway and Joyce voiced their support for the Second Amendment and agreed on the diminishing effectiveness of Congress. They disagreed on abortion, health care and marijuana legalization.

Joyce called himself a pro-life candidate who believes life begins at conception, while Ottaway said he is an advocate for women who doesn’t believe life starts at conception. Ottaway urged for a universal health care system, while Joyce disagreed by stating that he thinks Medicare for all would bankrupt the system.

Regarding marijuana legalization, Ottaway said he thinks the drug should be legalized, arguing that it is not as adverse as once believed if not used heavily. He added that legislation prohibiting marijuana places people who could be productive citizens in prison and that society could benefit from taxing the drug. Joyce described marijuana as another “vice” that

doesn’t need legalization. He argued there is scientific evidence that highlights adverse effects of marijuana, including cognitive delays.

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