Democratic Rep. Susan Wild, the incumbent candidate for Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District, and her Republican challenger, Lisa Scheller, participated in a forum hosted by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation at the ArtsQuest Center in South Bethlehem on Oct. 8.
The 7th Congressional District includes all of Lehigh and Northampton counties and parts of Monroe County. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was conducted virtually.
The debate focused on economic issues facing Pennsylvania. Wild took office in 2018, following the retirement of former Republican Rep. Charlie Dent, and is running for her second term. Scheller is the president and chairperson of Silberline Manufacturing Co., an aluminum manufacturing company based in Tamaqua. Scheller also chaired the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners for two years.
Don Cunningham, president and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, opened the event by addressing the candidates as well as the primary economic issues facing the Lehigh Valley. The Lehigh Valley’s GDP is over $41 billion and is the 66th largest economy for metropolitan areas in the U.S., Cunningham said.
The forum was structured so that each candidate gave a two-minute opening statement, a 90-second response to the questions that were asked and a two-minute closing statement.
Scheller spoke about her background in business, as well as her past struggles with drug addiction and the work she does with recovered addicts.
“As your congresswoman, I’m going to fight to get Pennsylvanians back to work safely and quickly and to rebuild our economy,” Scheller said. “What we need right now is targeted help for those in need, Americans and American businesses.”
Scheller criticized Wild and her work in Washington the past two years. She often mentioned Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in conjunction with criticizing Wild.
Scheller received an endorsement from President Donald Trump earlier this year in her primary election.
“Susan Wild votes with Nancy Pelosi 99 percent of the time on job-crushing, tax-increasing, economy-wrecking policies like Medicare For All and the Green New Deal,” Scheller said. “They are the chaos and the dysfunction in Washington.”
Wild spoke about how her experience in Congress and background in law makes her a more ideal candidate than Scheller.
“I ran for Congress in 2018 and I’m running for re-election now because I believe that everybody in our community deserves a seat at the table,” Wild said. “Since I took office, I have put that principle into practice.”
According to a new Morning Call/Muhlenberg College poll released Oct. 1, Wild holds a 13-point lead — 52 percent to 39 percent — over Scheller. Wild is polling strongest among women and college-educated voters. Among respondents, 39 percent said they voted for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016, 38 percent said they voted for Trump and 16 percent said they did not vote.
With less than a month before Election Day, there are about 60,000 more registered Democratic voters in the 7th Congressional District than there are registered Republicans, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State.
Since taking office, Wild has served on the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Education and Labor and the Committee on Ethics. Wild is the first Democrat to represent the Lehigh Valley in Congress since 1999. She voted to impeach Trump in December 2019.
Wild said she is running on a platform to help the working class and to create equality and fairness throughout Pennsylvania’s 7th District.
“As we move forward, I want to keep working to expand opportunities and give every person in our community a fair shot,” Wild said. “The only way that we become globally competitive and remain globally competitive is to invest in our workforce.”
Scheller and Wild had contrasting views on how to stimulate the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wild is working to get people the government aid and stimulus they need during these challenging times.
Scheller said she believes that people need to get back to work instead of being incentivized to stay home.
The debate lasted approximately an hour and can be viewed here.
Northampton County voters will have the opportunity to vote for either Wild or Scheller for Pennsylvania’s 7th congressional district on Nov. 3.