LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Democratic congressional candidate Morgan McGarvey warned Monday night that the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol remains an ongoing threat to American democracy, while Republican rival Stuart Ray pointed to concerns about an "out-of-control" Russia.
The candidates competing in Kentucky's 3rd District also wrangled over abortion and gun policies and how to contain inflation during a debate on Kentucky Educational Television.
Ray is a businessman and McGarvey is a veteran state lawmaker who is the top-ranking Democrat in the Republican-dominated Kentucky Senate. The Louisville-area 3rd District is the state's only congressional seat now held by a Democrat — retiring U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth.
Near the end their half-hour joint appearance — coming about four weeks before the midterm election — they were asked what they consider to be the greatest threat to American democracy.
McGarvey pointed to the attack on the capitol, which he linked to former President Donald Trump.
"I think the actions of Donald Trump culminating on Jan. 6 with a terrorist insurrection of our nation's capitol to overthrow a validly held election is a threat to democracy that continues today," he said.
McGarvey pointed to Trump's continued support within the national Republican Party.
"We have to have people in Washington who are willing to stand up for democracy," McGarvey said.
Ray, who avoided mentioning Trump throughout the debate, instead pointed to national security threats posed by adversaries overseas.
"One of the most serious votes we could make would be in the case of national security," Ray said. "And certainly we're seeing problems all over this world with an out-of-control Russia and their invasion in Ukraine. And a watchful eye in China monitoring what's going on there and considering what their options are in Taiwan."
Meanwhile, Ray and McGarvey clashed over the so-called Inflation Reduction Act backed by Democrats in Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden this summer.
Ray called it a continuation of "unsustainable spending" by the Democratic-led Congress that he said has fueled surging inflation that's squeezing consumers.
"I don't think you'll ever hear my opponent talk about spending that he doesn't care for," Ray said. "I think he likes all spending."
McGarvey touted the measure, noting a component that will lower the cost of prescription drugs for the elderly. It would also modestly cut the government's budget deficit.
McGarvey also criticized Republicans for stalling Democratic-backed legislation that he said was aimed at cracking down on alleged price gouging by oil companies during a time of high gas prices.
"What you're seeing is one party who is passing bills and putting out proposals that help people everyday in their lives to help with inflation, and another party that is content to just say no, and try to use it as an election-year wedge issue," McGarvey said.
Regarding abortion policy, Ray said it should be a state-level issue. He said he's "personally pro-life," but said he supports exceptions when the mother's life is at risk and in instances of rape and incest.
Asked if he would support a federal proposal to ban the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy with rare exceptions, Ray replied: "I don't know that I would necessarily vote for that."
McGarvey, who supports abortion rights, said the Supreme Court "has taken rights away from people" with its June ruling stripping away women's constitutional protections for abortion. And McGarvey pounced on Ray's remarks on the proposed federal 15-week abortion ban.
"My opponent is refusing to say whether he would vote on a national ban," McGarvey said. "If Speaker (Kevin) McCarthy becomes a reality and (Sen.) Lindsey Graham's 15-week ban comes into the national stage ... I think we know how he'd vote on it."
The winner in the Louisville-area district will succeed Yarmuth, a Democrat who has wielded considerable influence as chairman of the House Budget Committee. Yarmuth played a key role in advancing President Joe Biden's COVID-19 relief legislation. Yarmuth announced a year ago that he wouldn't seek another term and endorsed McGarvey ahead of the spring primary.
Louisville — the state's largest city — remains a Democratic stronghold while most of Kentucky is solidly Republican.
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