This year's race for Pennsylvania's 1st District in the U.S. House of Representatives is between Democrat Christina Finello and incumbent Republican Brian Fitzpatrick.
The race has garnered national attention with a Democratic super PAC spending nearly $1 million on digital and TV advertising to boost Finello, according to paperwork filed with the Federal Election Commission, the Associated Press reported.
The spending by the House Majority PAC is by far the most substantial investment to help Finello, who was a top official in Bucks County’s Division of Housing and Human Services before she ran for Congress.
Fitzpatrick, a former FBI agent who succeeded his brother in the seat, is one of just three House Republicans in the entire country running for reelection in a district won by Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016′s presidential contest.
Fitzpatrick won election by 2.5 percentage points in 2018, when he was outspent nearly four-to-one by his wealthy Democratic rival and millions flowed in from outside groups.
The 1st District includes Bucks County and a portion of Montgomery County.
Each candidate was sent a questionnaire for this article and asked to limit their response to 200 words per question.
Following are the questions and their responses.
Q: Describe your background and qualifications as a candidate (including incumbency).
Finello: I’ve learned that I have a knack for fixing what’s broken. I’ve spent the last 10 years working to improve government systems for care delivery as Deputy Director of the Bucks County Division of Housing and Human Services. I’ve pored over budgets, made government work better for its citizens, and worked with Democrats, Republicans and Independents to get the job done. In 2017, I was elected as a Councilmember to the Ivyland Borough Council, where I serve as the only Democrat on the Council.
I also have extensive experience working in the criminal justice system. As a mental health provider, I have trained police departments on de-escalation techniques. I have worked with the Philadelphia Veterans Court to connect our region’s veterans with important rehabilitative care. I am proud of my endorsements from Bucks County Sheriff Milton R. Warrell III and Montgomery County Sheriff Sean P. Kilkenny. I will bring this on-the-ground experience to the halls of Congress, ensuring our neighborhoods are safe, police are funded, and everyone is treated equally under the law.
Fitzpatrick: As a former FBI Special Agent and Federal Prosecutor spending my entire career arresting corrupt politicians, I’ve now made it my mission to take on a broken and dysfunctional Washington. On my very first day in office, I introduced a bold and sweeping government reform package to challenge the career politicians, impose term limits, and abolish congressional pensions for members of Congress. In order to truly fix the system, we must build bridges, restore people’s faith in the system, and bring America together.
In furtherance of this goal, I am the Vice-Chair of the Bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans who have forged together to build consensus and find common ground to solve our nation’s challenges. I am ranked the #1 most independent Congressman in the entire nation, and that is exactly what our community deserves. Our community is not far-left or far-right, we are centrist and pragmatic.
Q: Why are you running for this office and what do you hope to maintain or change?
Finnello: Growing up in a working-class family in Bucks County, I know the struggles that our community is facing. My parents worked two and three jobs to make ends meet. Then my dad joined a union and our lives started to turn around. I worked my way through undergrad and graduate school. I'm still paying off my student loans.
When COVID hit, and even before, working and middle-class families here were struggling. Seven months into this crisis, our local governments, small businesses, and families still need real relief. We deserve to have a Representative in Congress who puts the needs of the district before corporate special interests and the Trump agenda.
Right now, our Congressman is a reliable vote for Trump when Republicans need him most. His vote for the Trump tax bill set up the destruction of the Affordable Care Act in the Supreme Court and as a result, millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions may lose healthcare coverage. My daughter is one of these Americans. This fight is personal for me, and I will go to Washington to strengthen and build on the ACA and make sure Republicans stop their attacks on our healthcare access.
Fitzpatrick: I am running for reelection because our community needs bipartisan leadership representing them in Congress. It’s more important than ever that we come together to create a stronger community. Hyper-partisanship is destroying our nation. During these difficult times, it’s imperative we look to bipartisanship as a way to heal our nation and come together to find real pragmatic, commonsense solutions. Only when we seek to build bridges with those who think differently than us can we be part of the solution to heal the partisan divide.
Q: What are the main differences between you and your opponent?
Finello: We deserve to have a Representative unafraid to stand up to the Trump agenda and committed to putting the needs of this district before party loyalty and special interests.
My opponent voted for the Trump tax bill that gave tax breaks to big companies and set up the Supreme Court to dismantle the entire Affordable Care Act. Now over 300,000 people in our district are at risk of losing their health insurance in the middle of a global pandemic.
My opponent is also in lockstep with Donald Trump in voting against reproductive freedom. From voting to defund Planned Parenthood and restrict access to birth control to supporting legislation that criminalizes abortions and punishes doctors, even in most cases of rape and incest or when the mother’s life is at risk. Fitzpatrick's stances on reproductive health care are not a fit for our district.
My campaign has made a pledge to not accept corporate PAC contributions, and 95% of contributions to my campaign have been from grassroots donors contributing $200 or less. On the other hand, my opponent has taken nearly $1,000,000 from corporate PACs including $350,000 from the insurance and pharmaceutical industries alone.
Fitzpatrick: As a vice-chair of the Bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, I believe in a commitment to centrism, finding common ground and working constructively towards pragmatic solutions. My support from environmental groups, organized labor and gun safety groups show my independent approach towards governing which brings people together and rejects the Hatfield vs. McCoy hyper-partisanship that is destroying our country. I will also staunchly oppose the dangerous Defund the Police movement.
Q: How has this campaign season and your campaigning been affected or influenced by COVID-19?
Finello: Campaigning during the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more clear how critical it is to secure quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans.
Too many families are struggling to make ends meet each month because of the high cost of healthcare. We must protect and expand the Affordable Care Act to ensure everyone has access to quality, affordable health coverage, reduce the cost of prescription drugs, and protect people with pre-existing conditions.
As the COVID pandemic has wreaked havoc upon our health, our educational system, and all aspects of daily life, my opponent has sided with Trump and his failed response over the people of our district. Throughout this pandemic, he has refused to extend economic relief to hard-working people, small businesses, and state and local governments who have been devastated by COVID. He voted against funding for state and local governments to help make up budget shortfalls brought on by the pandemic to ensure frontline workers do not lose their jobs. Without federal assistance to state and local governments, over 200,000 Pennsylvanians are at risk of becoming unemployed.
We must secure real relief. This includes expanding unemployment insurance, supporting our small businesses, and delivering funding to local governments.
Fitzpatrick: During the height of the pandemic I made the decision to cease my reelection campaign in order to focus our efforts on spearheading a volunteer mission in our community to collect items and provide assistance to those in need, to include our elderly citizens, our health care workers, our police officers, our firefighters, our medics, and all others who needed our help.
List your website and/or social media pages where voters can learn more.
Campaign website: finelloforcongress.com
Twitter account: @FinelloForPA
Campaign Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FinelloForCongress/