The candidates vying for Michigan’s 2nd Congressional District traded blows Tuesday in their final debate before the Nov. 6 election.
The debate was held in front of nearly 1,000 people at Lakeshore Middle School in Grand Haven and hosted by the Grand Haven Tribune.
The mostly pro-Davidson audience roared approval as he was introduced, after both campaigns hosted gatherings outside the school prior to the doors opening. Applause and taunts erupted throughout the debate from both camps.
Incumbent Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga defended his record as Democratic challenger Dr. Rob Davidson offered an alternative “philosophy of government” in exchanges on health care, education, jobs, taxes, the environment and abortion.
“I believe we’re the United States of America and not the individual states of America,” Davidson, an ER doctor and former Spring Lake school board member, told Huizenga in an argument for stronger federal regulatory measures to protect the environment.
Huizenga praised the state of Michigan’s response to PFAS substances found in water supplies across the state. The chemicals linked to cancer and other diseases were discovered Monday in Robinson Elementary School’s water supply.
Davidson said the issue stems from deregulation of corporations, and said he would work in Congress to implement measures to prevent the “next PFAS.”
Low levels of the substances were also discovered in August in the water system that serves the remainder of Grand Haven schools and Spring Lake Public Schools. No traces were detected in sampling this month.
“The fact is my 17-year-old has been drinking this water her entire life,” Davidson said. “That concerns me as a parent.”
Education, Huizenga said, is a state-level issue, while Davidson argued for a universal health care system and coverage of pre-existing conditions.
Huizenga accused Davidson of misquoting him saying health care is a human right.
“It’s not a constitutional right,” Huizenga corrected, criticizing the Affordable Care Act and proposals for universal coverage. “’Medicare for all’ bankrupts the country. You can’t tax people enough to pay for that.”
Davidson said a universal system would fix health care for seniors, adding, “It takes a third-grade math level to understand.”
Both candidates defended undisclosed donations to their campaigns. Davidson said Huizenga had received $64,000 in undisclosed donations, while Davidson has received more than $300,000.
Donations under $200 are not required to be disclosed under federal law, Huizenga noted.
The candidates considered the future of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, and its potential to be overturned by an increasingly conservative court.
Huizenga said he is pro-life, and Davidson said he couldn’t argue with Huizenga’s deeply held belief, but said countries that outlaw abortion don’t decrease the number of abortions. His health care platform would expand access to contraceptives, Davidson added.
“My personal beliefs on abortion — I was raised a Catholic — have nothing to do with what I believe the government should tell people to do,” Davidson said.
Huizenga said the view is at odds with Davidson’s tenor on the role of the federal government.
“You want the government to tell people what to do except this issue,” the congressman said.
Davidson would be the first Democrat to represent Michigan’s 2nd Congressional District since the mid-1960s, and Huizenga has won re-election twice since taking the office in 2012.