By Flo Jonic
Providence, R.I. – It was the first time the four candidates for the first district congressional seat shared a stage in a debate forum. The location: The Providence Performing Arts Center. The sponsor: WPRI Television.
Host Tim White asked the candidates if to reduce the national deficit they would support raising the Social Security retirement age to 70. Providence Mayor David Cicilline said "we have to study it but we made a commitment to the American people we need to keep that commitment."
Businessman Anthony Gemma, former Democratic Party chair Bill Lynch and state Rep. David Segal agreed.
Cicilline, who has won the endorsement of the state Democratic Party, came out strong for a pullout from the war in Afghanistan. But asked if he would withhold funding for the conflict he said no.
State representative David Segal took an opposing point of view:
"I would vote against spending relative to the Afghan war," Segal said. "I believe we should support the troops there. I believe we support them best by funding their safe trip home."
The debate also highlighted the candidates' similarities. All said they would have voted for the health care reform bill. All support a continued leadership role for House Speaker of Nancy Pelosi. And all say they support comprehensive immigration reform.