The race is on.
Democratic Congressional candidates Kevin Strouse and Shaughnessy Naughton debated in front of about 200 people at Bucks County Community College Tuesday morning - the second time in two days the candidates have squared off, but perhaps their last formal debate before May's primary election.
Strouse, 34, a former Army ranger and CIA employee, and Naughton, 35, who runs her family printing business, are competing for a shot at unseating incumbent Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R, Bucks), a three-term Congressman who represents the Eighth District, which encompasses most of Bucks County and a sliver of northeastern Montgomery County.
Both Strouse and Naughton directed most of their fire in the debates – Monday night's was in Bensalem - at Fitzpatrick, rather than at one another.
The two emphasized their biographies in trying to illustrate how they'd bring change to the district, while also discussing their policy priorities.
For Strouse, who has the backing of the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, that meant playing up what he described as a problem-solving background developed during four tours overseas in the Army and eight years in the CIA. He also discussed the need to invest in infrastructure and education, raise the minimum wage, and said he supported the Affordable Care Act, even though he thought its roll-out was "flawed."
"I have shown I'm willing to fight" for principles, Strouse said Tuesday. "And that's what I'm going to fight for when I go down to Washington."
Naughton, who's been endorsed by the Democratic women's group EMILY's List, emphasized the skills she's gained leading her family publishing business for 10 years, while also playing up her college training in chemistry and the fact that she believes more women should be elected to Washington. She described the Affordable Care Act as "a good first step," but said improvements can be made, without elaborating on specifics. She also pitched the idea of an "Apollo-type" program for energy innovation, hoping it spurred new, clean technology, and she said student loans for college should be more affordable.
"I present a stark contrast to Mike Fitzpatrick's 'politics as usual,'" Naughton said in her closing statement.
A handful of voters said after Tuesday's debate that they didn't find any statements from the event particularly surprising, but they appreciated the chance to see the candidates in person.