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Lori Trahan, Dean Tran lay out their visions for 3rd District

Sharp elbows, stark policy divides drive debate

  • Oct. 21, 2022 – 3rd Congressional District candidates, U.S. Rep....

    Oct. 21, 2022 – 3rd Congressional District candidates, U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan and challenger Dean Tran, debate at UMass Lowell, with UML associate professor of political science John Cluverius moderating. (Julia Malakie/Lowell Sun)

  • Oct. 21, 2022 – Democratic 3rd Congressional District incumbent U.S....

    Oct. 21, 2022 – Democratic 3rd Congressional District incumbent U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan debates challenger Dean Tran at UMass Lowell. (Julia Malakie/Lowell Sun)

  • Oct. 21, 2022 – Republican 3rd Congressional District candidate Dean...

    Oct. 21, 2022 – Republican 3rd Congressional District candidate Dean Tran debates incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan at UMass Lowell. (Julia Malakie/Lowell Sun)

  • Oct. 21, 2022 – 3rd Congressional District candidates, U.S. Rep....

    Oct. 21, 2022 – 3rd Congressional District candidates, U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan and challenger Dean Tran, debate at UMass Lowell, with UML associate professor of political science John Cluverius moderating. (Julia Malakie/Lowell Sun)

  • Oct. 21, 2022 – 3rd Congressional District candidates, U.S. Rep....

    Oct. 21, 2022 – 3rd Congressional District candidates, U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan and challenger Dean Tran debate at UMass Lowell, with UML associate professor of political science John Cluverius moderating. (Julia Malakie/Lowell Sun)

  • Oct. 21, 2022 – 3rd Congressional District candidates, U.S. Rep....

    Oct. 21, 2022 – 3rd Congressional District candidates, U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan and challenger Dean Tran, debate at UMass Lowell, with UML associate professor of political science John Cluverius moderating. (Julia Malakie/Lowell Sun)

  • Oct. 21, 2022 – 3rd Congressional District candidate, challenger Dean...

    Oct. 21, 2022 – 3rd Congressional District candidate, challenger Dean Tran debates U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan at UMass Lowell. (Julia Malakie/Lowell Sun)

  • Oct. 21, 2022 – 3rd Congressional District candidate, U.S. Rep....

    Oct. 21, 2022 – 3rd Congressional District candidate, U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan debates challenger Dean Tran at UMass Lowell. (Julia Malakie/Lowell Sun)

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LOWELL — Democratic U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan and Republican challenger Dean Tran outlined their visions of America’s future in a spirited one-hour debate held at UMass Lowell Friday evening.

The candidates made their statements in front a room of boisterous supporters that at times resembled more a pep rally than a policy debate.

John Cluverius, an associate director at the Center for Public Opinion and a professor in the political science department with an expertise in American politics and political methodology, moderated on stage.

He was joined by a student panel that asked the questions, and was composed of Shakira Fedna, of Everett, who is on the Student Government Executive Board and majoring in biology; Mike Carpentier, of Chelmsford, who is chief justice of the Greek Council and majoring in mechanical engineering; and Courtney Mayer, of Lowell, a member of Student Activities & Leadership and graduate student majoring in curriculum and instruction.

The questions exposed the wide rift between the candidates on such issues as abortion, election integrity, the economy and Supreme Court reform.

The questions also showed where they agree on such matters as retaining entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, making America more energy independent and lifting the Schedule 1 substance definition of cannabis under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, allowing adult use of marijuana purchases.

Trahan won the coin toss and opened by highlighting her Lowell roots, working-class background and dedication to the district by bringing back much-needed funding and resources.

“It’s been a highlight of my life to serve the constituents of the 3rd Congressional District,” said Trahan, whose parents were in the audience. “I wake up every day with the lens of hardworking families in my mind’s eye to make sure they can get in a better position for themselves and their families. I’d be honored to continue that work.”

She cited the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill that allocated $170 million to repair the Rourke Bridge, and the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Act Plan money that is now flowing to communities like Lowell, which received a $75.9 million allocation.

From the start, Tran took a more combative stance, challenging the stewardship of the country under a Democratic administration that he said was ignoring American’s economic pain.

“Our country is going through a very, very difficult time,” he said. “We find ourselves in a time in which people are struggling financially and having to choose between paying for a gallon of gas or a gallon of milk.”

The first question asked about election integrity, and whether the candidates would respect the certified outcome of the free and fair results of the Nov. 8 general election. Both affirmed they would.

In a later question, when asked who won the 2016 and 2020 elections, Tran answered that he was focused on the future, not the past.

“Here’s what I know,” Tran said. “I know that Trump is no longer president, and that the current president is Biden. I also know that I’m not running against President Trump or President Biden. I’m running against the congresswoman.”

Trahan called misinformation around election integrity a serious issue. She said she had firsthand experience with the violent Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol, in which armed rioters stormed the grounds and building in an attempt to disrupt and overturn Congress’s certification of Joe Biden as president over Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

“I was there that day,” Trahan said. Tran supporters — wearing their candidate’s T-shirts — erupted into loud and sustained booing. Trahan resolutely spoke above the noise.

“We’ve seen people undermine our elections, and that misinformation led to an attack on our U.S. Capitol,” she said above the din.

Abortion rights is another stark, divisive and personally framed issue between the candidates, with Tran advocating for states to decide the issue, and Trahan calling Roe v. Wade, which was overturned by the Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs case, to be codified at the federal level by Congress.

Republican leadership in Congress is calling for a federal ban on abortion at 15 weeks of gestation.

“The congresswoman supports unrestricted abortion,” Tran said. “That means that you can kill a baby the second before it was born.”

Turning to her across the stage, Tran said, “Congresswoman, that sounds to me like you like killing minority babies.”

There a was smattering of applause, as well as audible groans from the audience to his remarks.

Trahan fired back with a statement affirming a woman’s right to make her own her health care decisions with her medical provider.

“You crossed a line there,” she said firmly. “I’m the only person on this stage who actually has had a baby. Denying life-saving abortion care and reproductive care to women puts women’s lives at risk. Women deserve better, the people of this district and the families of this district deserve better. We need to send legislators down to Washington who are going to codify Roe, and not vote for a federal ban on women’s right to choose.”

On the economy, Tran cited economic experts who claim that ARPA funding is contributing to the inflation rate, and said he would not commit to a federal minimum wage, currently $7.25 per hour, saying the decision should be left to the states.

“It’s not inflation that we’re going through, it’s Biden inflation,” Tran said. “We need to reduce government spending. That $1.9 trillion ARPA bill is what is causing so much hardship on the American people.”

Trahan said that she voted for the $15 per hour minimum-wage increase, and said ARPA would bring new and increased jobs to the district.

“We have to keep pace with inflation just like we do for our seniors on social security,” Trahan said. “And we have to create higher wages through good-paying jobs so people can support their families.”

The Supreme Court was another flashpoint, with Tran saying he was happy with the court’s composition and structure. Trahan said the high court needed term limits, and other reforms because “it doesn’t represent the views of the majority of the American people.”

One area in which Trahan and Tran were unanimous was their post-debate praise and support of the student panel that led the questioning.

“The student questioners did great,” Trahan said. “What’s on display is their ingenuity, their curiosity and their competence. They asked tough questions.”

Tran, whose wife was in the audience, noted that his daughter graduated from the university in 2020, saying the student questioners were “wonderful. UMass has incredible students, and they have produced unbelievable graduates.”

Tran closed the debate with his vision of America. If elected, he would be the first Asian-American to the 3rd District seat.

“We are going make America safe, we are going to have a strong economy and we are going to make sure that government is accountable to the people,” he said. “And if you have had enough, I ask you to join me and make history, and I would be proud and honored to have your vote.”

Trahan referenced the clear differences between herself and her opponent, but said she would continue to work for and represent the constituents of the 3rd District.

“I’m oriented to helping hardworking families, creating better paying jobs, making sure we have safe communities and keeping money in people’s pockets where it belongs. Getting us off of fossil fuels, moving us to clean energy,” she said. “It has been an honor to represent you in Congress and I humbly ask you for your vote on Nov. 8.”

Dennis Galvin, of Westford, who identified himself as a Tran supporter, said he loved a good debate.

“I love good debates — more than basketball games,” he said. “That was a good debate. You could see them up there going back and forth. Kudos to UMass for setting it up. It was very clear what the differences were, and it’s going to be up to the people of Massachusetts to decide whether they want to stick with the horse they’re riding now, or if it’s time to change horses.”

Despite his affirming statement on diversity, Tran’s post-debate photo-op featured only white faces, a fact that was not lost on Dwayne Wheeler, of Lowell, pastor of the Greater Deliverance Temple Church of God in Christ.

“I don’t see anybody who looks like me over there,” he noted. “I enjoyed the debate because we need to hear both sides — what the people who want to lead us think. The questions from the students were wonderful. They are our future. I’m thankful that we have young people like this looking out for us.”

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