NEW BRITAIN — Republican and former Meriden Mayor Manny Santos and Democrat Jahana Hayes sparred on everything from school shootings to student loan debt Wednesday night.
The two candidates faced off before an audience at Central Connecticut State University in their third debate for the open seat in the state’s fifth Congressional district.
Both have been making the rounds of the district’s 41 towns and cities. Political observers have put the race at solidly Democratic, giving Hayes a massive fundraising advantage over Santos. As of Sept. 30, Hayes has raised $1.2 million, with about half coming from outside the state. Santos has raised slightly more than $54,000.
Santos tried to paint Hayes as part of the “Democratic socialist party” that seeks, “open borders,” “Medicare for all” “citizenship for all.” The audience groaned loudly when Santos said high student debt is something “most students bring on themselves.”
Hayes criticized the GOP tax plan, saying it is raising the national deficit. She said she favors investing in students and appreciates the help she received as she pursued a career in education.
On the issues:
Santos: Believes schools are soft targets and supports proposed enhancements of school security. New bills must also address mental illness.
Hayes: Supports universal background checks, gun rights and increased safety checks to make gun owners more responsible. She would never support arming teachers.
Criminal justice reform
Hayes: Eliminate the school to prison pipeline. Offer special needs classes, supportive services and continued education.
Santos: Much of the problem stems from lack of jobs, or a trade. Make sure economy provides jobs for those who want to work. More focus on technical high schools.
Santos: Supports student loan forgiveness for individuals who choose to work in a substance abuse treatment facility. Make sure our medical community is involved in solutions.
Hayes: Supports community partnerships between educators, police, religious and community leaders. Introduce treatment services when someone enters the juvenile justice system.
Hayes: Stop predatory lenders from targeting students. “We’re talking about building a wall for $25 billion. The Pell grant program could be doubled with $25 billion. I would fight to make sure college is affordable to anyone who wants to go.”
Santos: “The student debt issue is something that quite frankly a lot of students bring upon themselves.” Santos believes it is important that students make sure their career choice is one that will provide loan repayment.
Santos: The tax cut of 2017 caused a robust economy by spurring job creation. Believes wages are increasing. Supportive of more tax cuts.
Hayes: She believes recent economic growth has not been good for everyone. Federal tax bill hurt Connecticut. “The poor people in our community should not have to pay for corporate tax cuts.”