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Pa.’s 8th and 9th congressional district candidates on the issues

The congressional district candidates met at WVIA for debates in late October.
Neil Prisco
The congressional district candidates met at WVIA for debates in late October.

Issues like gun control, immigration, inflation and reproductive healthcare are top of mind for voters across the country and in Pennsylvania.

The candidates running to represent Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania in Congress have offered their stances on these issues in the run up to election day on Nov. 8.

Pennsylvania’s congressional districts for the United States House of Representatives were recently redrawn. The state now has 17 districts, down from 18.

The 8th district now contains all of Wayne, Pike and Lackawanna counties and parts of Luzerne and Monroe counties.

The 9th district now encompasses the entirety of nine counties – Bradford, Susquehanna, Wyoming, Sullivan, Columbia, Lebanon, Montour, Northumberland and Schuylkill – and parts of Luzerne, Lycoming and Berks counties.

Matt Cartwright and Jim Bognet clashed on the issues of abortion, gun control and inflation during their only debate for the 8th Congressional district. Cartwright, a democrat, is seeking a sixth term.

Two-term incumbent Republican congressman Dan Meuser of Luzerne County and Democratic challenger for the 9th district, Amanda Waldman of Lycoming County, explained their stances on topics proposed by panelists.

The four candidates met for debates at WVIA in late October. These answers are in response to panelists' questions.

The candidates in Pennsylvania’s 9th congressional district disagree on abortion rights, with Democratic challenger Amanda Waldman stating that she’s pro-choice and agrees with certain term limits. The commonwealth currently allows abortions through the 23rd week of pregnancy.

Waldman on abortion

Incumbent Republican congressman Dan Meuser said he’s pro-life with exceptions and prefers families opt for adoption. He said the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade made the court neutral toward – not opposed to – abortion.

Meuser on abortion

In Pennsylvania’s 8th congressional district, incumbent Democratic congressman Matt Cartwright disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“I believe women ought to make their own choices,” he said. “It's up to them, their doctors, their faith. They ought to make their own health care decisions.”

Cartwright on Abortion

Republican challenger Jim Bognet said “the matter” of abortion had been sent back to the states by the Supreme Court’s decision and “that’s where it belongs.” He stated he is pro-life with the exceptions of rape, incest and situations where a mother’s life is at stake.

“We have to make exceptions for them,” he said.

Bognet on Abortion

Law enforcement & gun control
The 9th district candidates agreed on aspects of law enforcement, including more funding for police and border agents. Meuser and Waldman both said existing laws around gun control should be enforced more thoroughly. Meuser pointed to legislation that he disagreed with, saying Democrats aim to restrict the rights of citizens to bear arms and have been light on crime. He referenced crime in Philadelphia.

Meuser on guns

Waldman said she owns a gun and doesn’t believe Democrats want to take away Americans’ guns. She said she’d like to see new kinds of regulation.

“For assault weapons, I do support special training,” Waldman said. “I support yearly training. It’s what our military men and women have to go through when they sign up to serve this country.”

Waldman on guns

Cartwright and Bognet addressed a question on allowing local municipalities to set their own gun control laws.

Cartwright said local laws can exist, but federal actions on guns must “set the tone,” and that existing laws do need to change in the face of events like mass shootings.

“I'm in favor of sensible gun gun safety laws,” he said. “I'm a gun owner. I'm a hunter. I'm not interested in going around sweeping up people's guns.”

Cartwright on guns

Bognet disagreed with allowing municipalities to have differing gun laws and advocated for enforcing existing laws to “crack down” on illegally purchased weapons and “people who commit crimes with guns.”

Bognet on guns

Pa.’s minimum wage
On the issue of raising the minimum wage, both 9th district candidates agree the commonwealth could do better. Pennsylvania has the lowest minimum wage in the Mid-Atlantic at $7.25 an hour.

Waldman said $15 an hour should be the bare minimum. Meuser said the state should place wages at around $13 per hour with regards to the consumer price index, which measures price changes over time.

In the debate, Waldman talked about her own struggles as a single mom working up to three jobs, requiring her to spend less time with her family to make ends meet. Meuser said even a raised minimum wage would suffer with the current inflation rate, blaming the Democratic administration for financial hardships.

Waldman on the minimum wage
Meuser on the minimum wage

Energy independence
The 9th congressional candidates also agree that Pennsylvania should be more energy independent, though they disagree on how to reach that goal.

Meuser said bureaucracy has made it hard to approve oil pipelines in the commonwealth. He said the Obama administration approved hundreds more permits for intermediary pipelines than President Joe Biden. Meuser said he thinks Democrats want to slow down or stop domestic fossil fuel production, which would limit the state’s energy independence.

“[Democrats] went off to Venezuela and they went off to Saudi Arabia,” Meuser said. “I asked them why they were putting Venezuela over Towanda.”

Meuser on energy

Waldman said existing natural gas wells should be used more efficiently, or at least more often, instead of prioritizing new wells. She said she has a lease on a well herself. Waldman pointed out that pipelines aren’t the only way for Pennsylvania energy independence. Her campaign website says she supports “a transition to renewable and sustainable energy sources.”

Waldman on energy

The U.S. House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 attack
Meuser said he disagreed with how the House committee on the Jan. 6 attack has been carried out. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi kicked Republicans off the committee that didn’t align with her views, which made the hearings unfair, he said.

“The Jan. 6 Committee, I thought would be a reasonable transparency for the American people, that’s what we should have,” Meuser said. “But, that’s not what it turned into.”

Meuser on the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack

Waldman said she watched the televised hearings and “did not see a partisan attack.” She also said former President Donald Trump should testify before the committee, who recently issued him a subpoena.

Waldman on the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack

View the full 8th District debate here.
View the full 9th District debate here.

Sarah Scinto is the local host of Morning Edition on WVIA. She is a Connecticut native and graduate of King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, and has previously covered Northeastern Pennsylvania for The Scranton Times-Tribune, The Citizens’ Voice and Greater Pittston Progress.

You can email Sarah at sarahscinto@wvia.org
Tom Riese is a multimedia reporter and the local host for NPR's All Things Considered. He comes to NEPA by way of Philadelphia. He is a York County native who studied journalism at Temple University.

You can email Tom at tomriese@wvia.org
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