Heads were butted and disagreements were clarified Wednesday night in a congressional debate at MCCC’s Meyer Theater.
Congressman John D. Dingell (D-Dearborn) and Republican challenger Dr. Rob Steele answered questions from local residents.
The debate was the only one to take place between the two candidates. A crowd gathering outside the La-Z-Boy Center a half hour before the doors opened is a testament to the public’s level of interest.
The curtain slid open revealing Rep. Dingell on the left, and Dr. Steele on the right. MCCC President David Nixon sat between them and moderated the debate.
During Dingell’s opening remarks he emphasized his desire to protect social security, our economy and Medicare.
“I’ll fight hard for you as I always have,” Dingell said.
Dingell has been the congressman from the 15th Congressional District for 55 years.
Steele’s opening statement was an attempt to negate Dingell’s years of experience in politics.
“I’ve never been in politics,” Steele said. “Career politicians don’t know how to spend their own money, they spend yours.”
Education is one topic where they stated their differences.
Dingell said he favored federal support of educational funding for the states.
“This country needs more money to be spent on education,” Dingell said.
Steele’s method of reforming the education system would not be to spend more money on it, but to encourage more effective schools.
The federal government’s role in the health-care system was one question asked by the public, and delivered by Dr. Nixon.
Steele mentioned his graduation from medical school in 1981, and the private practice he has operated since then. He said he does not like how the health-care bill deals with malpractice issues, which is our current system’s largest flaw.
“We need to repeal the healthcare bill,” Steele said.
Dingell’s response brought an outburst from audience members, who had been instructed to hold applause until the end of the debate.
“Healthcare is a right, not a privilege,” Dingell said.
Social Security was the last of the twelve questions asked.
Dingell supported keeping the current system going in order to save retirees their dignity. Steele said there is a problem with the current system, and pinned the blame on Dingell’s voting record.
Throughout the debate, Steele’s supporters were more vocal. As the curtain closed, a chant started from the audience, “Rob Steele, Rob Steele.”
Steele said he is not a Tea Party candidate, but his campaign volunteers are highly motivated and energetic.
He also admitted to voting for Dingell in the past.
Ron Allen, a specialty steel consultant from Taylor, attended the debate with a Pro-Life advocacy group.
“I have great respect for Dingell, but he puts his politics before faith,” said Allen.
Questions not asked live were forwarded to each campaign after the debate.
The Monroe County Intermediate School District and TK Productions videotaped the event on behalf of the college.