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25th Congressional District candidates square off in Voice of the Voter debate

Joe Morelle and Jim Maxwell at a Voice of the Voter debate.
Credit WXXI

The candidates in the 25th Congressional District faced off in a Voice of the Voter Debate Thursday night which was broadcast on WXXI radio and TV.

Reforming healthcare was among the topics they disagreed on.

Democrat Joe Morelle, the Assembly Majority Leader, and Republican Jim Maxwell, who is a neurosurgeon, had a very different view of what to do about issues involving healthcare and health insurance.

Maxwell does not like the idea of the plan a number of Democrats have proposed, called ‘Medicare for All,’ basically expanding the concept of Medicare to provide health care for all Americans.

“I think Medicare for All is not the way to go; I don’t think the government should be tasked with running the whole health care system, I don’t think they’re ready for it, I don’t think they’re good at it, and I might mention the VA system as an example of that," Maxwell said.

But Morelle says the basic concept is a sound one. He says there are too many disparities right now in who can obtain good coverage and he says that health care should be a right for all Americans.

“Medicare for all is a way for us to begin to move people into a system that I think would lower costs, improve quality, eliminate those disparities, and frankly, it’s been very successful as it relates to our elderly population across the country," Morelle said.

What the candidates would do to curb the opioid epidemic was also a point of contention during the debate, but also saw some agreement between them.

220 people died in Monroe County last year due to fatal overdoses and both Maxwell and Morelle said that multi-faceted efforts are needed to make any real impact. 

Maxwell says he would support funding to increase the number of beds and treatment centers in the region.           

“This is one area where I think drop the mic, more funding is needed, more money is needed. We’ve got to go  full speed to stop this," Maxwell said."

Maxwell says that better aligning services and resources could also produce results. Morelle says that he  would also support more funding but added that the work can’t end once someone leaves treatment.           

“We need to make sure that people coming out of residential treatment have services that they go so when they re-enter the community people don’t find themselves in the same situation, with the same habits,” Morelle said.

There were some differing views on how to deal with education, in terms of the role the government should have.

Maxwell said that, ”I don’t think it’s a problem of not enough money. I think it’s a problem of governance. It’s very difficult from the federal standpoint to invade or get involved with local school boards, local school districts, local school budgets. But I’ll be a bully pulpit and call out what I see is a very failed system.”

Morelle replied that, ”Yeah, governance is not the issue. The issue is, let’s be honest about it: the schools that struggle are ones with high levels of poverty, children of color, and we have to understand that, in order to be successful, this isn’t simply about classrooms. It’s about the lives that these children live in. And it’s about a system which doesn’t have an ability to bring people together so that social, health, and educational services are integrated in a way that really affects the lives of young people.”

And on the issue of gun rights, Morelle said that he supports more federal restrictions on guns.

“All rights carry responsibilities. I think we should have universal background checks. I don’t think they go far enough. Right now, if someone applies who should be on the prohibited list, doesn’t get a response within three days, they’ll get a gun license, whether they should or they should not. That needs to change,” Morelle said.

Maxwell says he supports the Second Amendment.

“Legislating against and inanimate object, a gun that has a right of guarantee through the Bill of Rights is not the way to go. We need to predict who is likely to fit a profile of a perpetrator of gun violence. We need a system where we can identify them, where we can act upon it,” Maxwell said.

Morelle and Maxwell are vying for the seat held by the late Louise Slaughter.