A horde of students and supporters gathered in the Seegers Union Event Space on Oct. 6 for what turned out to be an impassioned debate. Competing for Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in this midterm election are incumbent Congresswoman Susan Wild (D) and President and CEO of Silberline Manufacturing Lisa Scheller (R). The debate was moderated by CEO and president of The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce Tony Iannelli, for his locally broadcasted show “Business Matters” on WFMZ-TV.
The filmed event truly kicked off when it was announced that audience participation was not only allowed, but encouraged. What proceeded was a rowdy, hour-long conversation, featuring several audience interjections that often prevented the candidates from finishing their sentences.
The debate covered several hot button political issues, including: abortion, the economy, immigration, the January 6 insurrection and foreign policy. China was a particular point of interest, especially in regard to Scheller’s business dealings. Wild accused her opponent of closing a factory in Pennsylvania’s Carbon County (a recent addition to the 7th district) and moving production to a facility in China. Perhaps with this accusation on her mind, Scheller uttered an unfortunate slip-up saying, “we want to improve our relationship with China” but then corrected herself noting, “we’ve got to improve our relationship with the environment… It was a very terrible gaffe.”
On the subject of the environment and climate change, the candidates had starkly opposing views. “We are nowhere near being able to go to renewable energy,” stated Scheller. Wild retorted saying, “When is it going to be soon enough, when the planet burns up?”
“We are nowhere near being able to go to renewable energy”
Healthcare, specifically prescription drug prices, was an issue where Wild touted her accomplishments throughout the debate. “My very first mission which I took on and which I’ve continued to this day is bringing down prescription drug prices… I’ve been working on that since before inflation even became an issue,” noted Wild. Scheller agreed with Wild’s sentiment but took issue with the Congresswoman’s path to getting there saying, “I am all for reducing drug prices. But that’s not the way to do it by having the government become more involved.”
With the overturning of Roe v. Wade last June, abortion was at the forefront of the debate. Wild gave her pro-choice stance declaring, “What I hear from my opponent is that she doesn’t trust women to make their own decisions… I personally believe that the government does not belong in your doctor’s office.” Scheller is decidedly pro-life but accused Wild of exaggerating her views in attack advertisements put out by the Wild campaign. “Susan Wild has lied about my position… I do support exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.”
The attention was redirected to the war in Ukraine with Scheller boldly stating that “Joe Biden and Susan Wild created the war by buying oil from Russia… energy independence is going to be the key to national security.” Wild denounced this accusation, “It’s amazing to me that my opponent thinks that the war in Ukraine is about oil. The war in Ukraine is about trying to get Ukraine back into the USSR. This is a power grab. This is a land grab.”
One issue that the candidates agreed on was policing. Scheller expressed that “part of the American Dream that I’ve always talked about is having a safe community… Right now, crime is rampant, in all of our cities, particularly large, Democrat-run cities… I want to make our city safe and to do that we need to support our men in uniform.” Scheller added that Wild voted to defund the police. However, Wild deflected this claim saying, “We voted on a package of four Democratic bills to help our police forces… this defund the police stuff, enough. You’ve got these talking points from the GOP.”
After the debate had concluded, Muhlenberg students relayed their thoughts on the event to The Weekly. “Debates like this are important and it’s a good public service for an institution like Muhlenberg to do. For me specifically, Muhlenberg hosting the debate gave me the opportunity to watch it in person, which I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I also got to speak with one of the candidates on my own afterward, which I appreciated being able to do,” said Liam Skopal ‘26.
“We voted on a package of four Democratic bills to help our police forces… this defund the police stuff, enough. You’ve got these talking points from the GOP.”
Olivia Tebsherany ‘23 shared that “My main problem with the debate was the unprofessionalism of the moderator. I understand the debate was a more conversational format, but his wording of the questions and his attitude towards the audience when he was the one that invited us to react vocally was abysmal.”
Madison Rosensaft ‘23 gave her opinion noting, “I would say that overall Scheller seemed a lot more prepared to attack Wild… Wild seemed to talk more about policy even though she got pretty heated at moments.” Paige Weisburg ‘23 voiced her thoughts saying, “The candidates didn’t seem prepared at all for the questions they were going to be asked and for such an important race that was surprising.”
Marissa Cohen ‘25 shared her opinion on the candidates saying, “This debate further solidified my opinions of both candidates. I’ve supported Wild since I came to Muhlenberg last year, and I always thought she was a solid candidate. While Wild was factual and composed throughout the entire debate, Scheller seemed to be pulling straws and rarely spoke of substance, often reverting to buzzwords instead of explaining her views on certain issues.”
The first half of the debate was aired on Oct. 10 at 7:30 p.m. and the latter half will premiere on Oct. 17 at the same time. Voter registration in PA ends on Oct. 24. Students registered in Allentown can vote in-person at Seegers Union on Nov 8. Applications for a mail-in ballot must be submitted by Nov. 1.