At 26 years old Morgan Murtaugh is one year above the constitutional minimum age requirement for U.S. Representatives. The Times of San Diego and Huffington Post reported she is the youngest Congressional candidate this election year.
The Republican challenger sat next to her 74-year-old Democratic opponent, Susan Davis, and sparred over immigration, environment, gun control, and term limits at the University of San Diego, October 6.
The debate was part of Voice of San Diego’s Politifest, a “non-partisan crash course on local politics and policy.”
Murtaugh kicked off the debate talking about her grandparents’ migration from Mexico 50 years ago, but pointed out that even immigration supporters must accept limits to the number of border crossers.
“I understand wanting to help people. I really do because I want to help people. There are four billion people in the world living in less than ideal circumstances. If we were to open our border with no restrictions just imagine if a quarter of those people decided to come here. Where would we put a billion people? There are over three hundred million people here now. It's not realistic.”
Murtaugh said she doesn’t agree with the “round ‘em all up and deport ‘em” mentality. “That is not feasible and it’s heartless.” She said illegal aliens living a positive life should get permanent residency but those causing harm should get deported.
Davis started by talking about spending money. “I’ve spent a lot of time at the border and with that have been helpful in providing the dollars for the new Port of Entry. So about $740,000,000 in payment.”
“Immigration and how we handle that should be left to the state,” said Davis.
Murtaugh said making federal law optional and letting states make national security decisions would lead to chaos. “We need to let our federal agents do their jobs.”
Murtaugh said she’s an environmentalist with a more tangible perspective. “People who care about the environment should start by cleaning up the toxic mess at the border. What drives me crazy as someone who loves the environment so much is the toxic waste that has gone on for decades in the Tijuana River Valley.”
“The world is our gift and it’s our home and it’s our duty to protect it. It should not be a partisan issue. If you live on earth we all like to breathe clean air.”
Davis said she does not support rollbacks that are happening with environmental protections.
“When countries look at their problems it has a lot to do with their environment. It has to do with what’s happened with water in their country. Those are the countries that are more likely to engage in civil wars because the environment is being hurt. Environmental issues are national security issues,” said Davis.
Moderator Lynn Walsh then asked about gun violence, gun rights, and gun control.
“My worst day [as a congresswoman] was the day when I heard over the radio that my good friend and colleague Gabrielle Giffords had been shot by a man who should not have had access to a gun,” said Davis.
She added, “Nobody is going to take your gun. My dear friend Gabby has guns. People need to be responsible and lock up their guns. Listen to those kids from Parkland.”
Murtaugh said, “I can relate to this generation that has been suffering at the hands of gun violence because I was supposed to be at the Route 91 music festival where the Las Vegas shooting happened [deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.] At the last second I decided not to go. I have friends who got shot. One of my best friends Taylor Winston was one of the guys who threw people in the back of a stolen truck and drove them to the hospital. I can relate to the tragedy and heartbreak that comes with mass shootings.”
Davis said the solution to gun violence is gun control legislation. Murtaugh said the solution is mental health reform.
On term limits Murtaugh was supportive while Davis was opposed.
Murtaugh said there is a simple reason term-limit legislation never gets passed. “Who’s going to vote to end their term and stop getting a paycheck?”
Davis asked, “What is the problem we are trying to solve?” She pointed out that when representatives rotate out too often their staff stay on board and end up with more control than the elected representatives.
Davis said she thinks it’s more important to have a time limit on how long congressmen can chair a committee because then new members would have more opportunities to develop leadership.
One America News reported the debate was the first time in nine Congressional terms Davis debated an opponent. A Davis campaign spokesperson denied the claim saying Davis has debated every Republican opponent who asked.
A Facebook video shows Davis debating Republican Nick Popaditch at the Temple Emanu-el October 13, 2012. And a Hillcrest news article discusses a debate between Davis and Republican opponent Bill Van De Whege at the Red Lion Hanalei Hotel (now closed) October 26, 2002.
The 53rd District is shaped like a fat Florida. It runs from eastern Chula Vista north to western El Cajon then goes west through Mission Valley to Linda Vista and Mission Hills. It includes all of Spring Valley, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Hillcrest, North Park, Serra Mesa and the SDSU college area.
According to Ballotpedia Davis received more than 60 percent of the vote in each of her Congressional elections, except her first against Brian Bilbray in 2000 (49.7%) and her race against Larry Wilske in 2014 (58.8%.)
After the debate Murtaugh tweeted, “I enjoyed (almost) every minute of it and look forward to many more to come.”
Though tweeting about others of her recent events, Davis didn’t mention the debate.