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Lehigh Valley Election News

Scheller and Wild intense first debate for PA's 7th Congressional District

Scheller Wild Oct 6 debate
Tom Shortell
Republican Lisa Scheller (center) and Democrat Susan Wild thank their supporters on Oct. 6, 2022 as Business Matters host Tony Iannelli looks on. The trio just finished filming the first debate for Pennsylvania's 7th Congressional District at Muhlenberg College.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — The two candidates for the Lehigh Valley's Congressional district debated before a raucous crowd at Muhlenberg College Thursday morning.

Republican Lisa Scheller and incumbent Democrat Susan Wild have shown little love for one another in their mailers, releasing a barrage of negative attacks sent across the region in recent weeks. That didn't change in their first debate for Pennsylvania's 7th Congressional District, which will air on WFMZ's Business Matters over the next two weeks.

But the heated exchanges were dwarfed by the unruly crowd of more than 100. People shouted and jeered throughout the debate, sometimes forcing the candidates to pause or speak over them. During a break, show staff asked the audience to refrain from cursing during taping.

  • Republican Lisa Scheller and Democratic incumbent Susan Wild are competing for one of the most hotly contested congressional districts in the country.
  • This debate will air in two parts Oct. 10 and Oct. 17 at 7:30 p.m. on WFMZ.
  • PBS39 will host their next debate at 7 p.m. Oct. 21 and simulcast on 91.3 WLVR.

The tension in the room peaked when host Tony Iannelli asked the candidates about their positions on abortion. Scheller accused Wild of lying about her stance, saying that while she's anti-abortion, she supported exceptions such as instances of rape, incest and preserving the life of a mother. Scheller countered by noting that Wild supported allowing abortions into final days of a pregnancy.
"Susan Wild, again, is an extremist," she said between angry interruptions from her detractors.

Wild defended her stance, saying that any mother who carried a pregnancy so late must be facing an extreme medical emergency to need an abortion at that point. Women should be able to make decisions about their healthcare without government interference, she said over shouts of "Murderer!" and "Baby Killer!"

"She doesn’t trust women to make their own decisions," Wild said of her opponent. "We should not be legislating pregnancy."

Scheller's ownership of Silberline Manufacturing was another major point of contention throughout the debate. The Tamaqua-based company makes aluminum-effect pigments that are used in paint, coatings and packaging, among other products. She employs about 150 people in Pennsylvania and hundreds more overseas.

“I create jobs. You create talking points.”
Republican candidate Lisa Scheller addresses opponent Rep. Susan Wild

Wild, the former solicitor of Allentown, accused her of shipping jobs to China, noting she shuttered a factory in Carbon County while building new factories in China. As political and economic tensions with China grow, voters would not be able to count on Scheller to represent them in Congress, Wild said, calling her “a walking conflict of interest.”

Scheller, a former chair of the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners, denied the claim and fired back with her own. She repeatedly tied Wild to President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, charging that Wild always votes in line with Democratic Party leadership. The Republican candidate said the district needs a representative who will cut spending by Congress and make it easier for companies to conduct business instead of creating more bureaucracy.

“I create jobs. You create talking points,” Scheller said.

“You create jobs in China,” Wild shot back as the audience exploded into cheers and jeers.

The candidates split again over international relations. Wild said she broke from Biden over his decision to pull troops from Afghanistan, but she applauded his decision to work with NATO to support Ukraine against Russia. American troops should not be involved, Wild said, but she supported the efforts to fight back against the machinations of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom both women called a despot.

Scheller in turn blamed Biden and Democrats for the war, saying Putin was emboldened by the American withdrawal from Afghanistan. Even worse, she argued, was that America under Biden and Wild’s leadership empowered Russia by purchasing its oil instead of producing more at home.

"She doesn’t trust women to make their own decisions. We should not be legislating pregnancy."
Rep. Susan Wild

The tense energy kept up even after the debate. While people filed out, supporters of the two candidates shouted at one another and pointed fingers in each other’s faces, further highlighting the partisan divide within the district.

The two candidates are no strangers to one another. Wild eked out a win over Scheller in one of the nation's tightest Congressional races two years ago. With Congress narrowly divided, both major political parties have spent heavily in a bid to win over voters in the swing district. In February, state leaders redrew the district lines to include Carbon, Lehigh and Northampton counties along with portions of southwest Monroe County, changes that sharpened the partisan divide of the new district.