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Perry, DePasquale spar over Social Security at first debate

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Congressman Scott Perry speaks during a town hall at Hummelstown Fire Department in Dauphin County Tuesday, July 30, 2019. It was the first in-person town hall by Perry in over two years. Bill Kalina photo

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry defended his past support for raising the retirement age, marking the most contentious exchange of Thursday night's 10th District debate with Democratic challenger Eugene DePasquale.

DePasquale, the state auditor general, challenged the Carroll Township Republican on the issue on four occasions during the debate. Perry has twice supported raising the retirement age to buttress the Social Security system, which is expected to run through its reserve assets by 2035.

On Thursday, Perry said his past votes were a matter of simple math, though he would not explicitly state whether he still supports the measure.

“What I support is fiscal solvency,” Perry said.

More:DePasquale: Systemic racism is real, 'unacceptable'

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The auditor general argued that raising the retirement age would be detrimental to the country’s senior citizens.

“That will endanger their ability to live productive retirement lives,” he said.

DePasquale's campaign has for months sought to damage Perry's support among seniors by highlighting the incumbent's record on the issue. 

During Thursday's debate, which was hosted by ABC27 WHTM, the two candidates did agree on some issues. They both said they oppose a national mask mandate to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and would vote for a second wave of relief for American citizens.

However, as he has repeatedly done through the election cycle, the four-term Republican incumbent argued that DePasquale would be the “lapdog” of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale speaks with Rotary Club of York past-president Mike Summers and club members, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, during the club's program featuring the candidates for the 10th Congressional District at the Country Club of York. Congressman Scott Perry, DePasquale's opponent, appeared in the program last month. Bill Kalina photo

In ads, Perry has accused DePasquale of being a socialist who would vote alongside more progressive Democrats such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

DePasquale, in turn, argued that while Perry sits on the Freedom Caucus, a group of the House's most right-leaning Republicans, he would instead join the Problem Solvers Caucus to bridge gaps between the two parties.

“I don’t fall in line with anybody, other than the constituents that I represent," DePasquale said.

DePasquale also made a point Thursday night of hitting Perry over his denial of systemic racism.

This past month, while appearing at a York Rotary forum, Perry claimed that systemic racism doesn't exist. Perry also said there was "more to the story" regarding the circumstances surrounding to the death of George Floyd, who was killed earlier this year during an encounter with police officers in Minneapolis. 

In addition, Perry claimed that police killings of Black people have been sensationalized. 

“Congressman Perry had a moment where he could have tried to be unifying. Instead, he was more divisive," DePasquale said. "There is clearly a racism problem in the United States, and it must be addressed."

"Racism is wrong in all forms," Perry said Thursday, but he would not walk back his earlier comments.

Instead, he shifted his focus to nationwide protests in response to police violence, some of which have led to violent clashes with police, and condemned the demonstrations.

Perry also noted that DePasquale had participated in protests where some demonstrators held signs that read "Blue Lives Murder."

"That's not seeking some kind of redress," Perry said. "That's not looking for some solutions; that's throwing gas on the fire. Instead of stoking the flames of division, my opponent should be trying to help us reconcile our communities."

Pennsylvania's 10th Congressional District race is expected to be one of the most competitive in the state. 

The race has been rated a toss-up by independent political analysts including The Cook Political Report, Politico and Sabato's Crystal Ball. 

Thursday's debate was the first of two scheduled in the race. Perry and DePasquale are scheduled to debate again at 8 p.m. Oct. 19. That event is sponsored by WGAL-TV.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.