WATERBURY, Conn. – The AARP held a debate between Jim Maloney (D) and Nancy Johnson (R) here Sept. 30. The forum focused on senior citizens issues, mainly a prescription drug benefit under Medicare, upholding and strengthening Social Security and health care. Nearly 400 senior citizens attended. Senior citizens’ voting turnout rate is usually higher than the general population’s.

Maloney and Johnson are both incumbents running in the reorganized 5th CD. The race is seen as important nationally because a Maloney victory here can help defeat the thin Republican majority in the House of Representatives. The National Committee for an Effective Congress rates the outcome of the Maloney/Johnson race a “toss-up.”

In the debate, Maloney exposed Johnson’s pro-corporate stands, especially on Medicare and Social Security. Maloney exposed that Johnson’s claim to support a prescription drug benefit was actually the discredited Republican bill, which turned funds over to HMO’s and insurance companies. Johnson also said she was favorable towards seniors opening 401K investment funds with Social Security money, a step towards privatizing and dismantling Social Security.

The applause by the seniors in the audience was clearly sympathetic to Maloney’s stand.

Based on the incumbents’ voting records the following scorecards have been issued: Association of Retired Americans (ARA, AFL-CIO): Maloney 90 percent, Johnson 0 percent; NAACP: Maloney 78 percent, Johnson 38 percent. American Federation of Teachers/National Education Association: Maloney 100 percent, Johnson 78 percent.

AARP, which represents 10 million members, graded Johnson’s record “unsatisfactory” to senior citizens.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org