Democrat Susan Eggman and Republican K. Jeffrey Jafri fielded questions from a panel during a 45-minute exchange hosted by the San Joaquin League of Women Voters at the university’s Long Theater.
Both seek to represent the 13th District, which includes Tracy, Mountain House, Stockton and western San Joaquin County.
Eggman took 39.8 percent of the vote in the primary election June 5, while Jafri finished second, with 21.7 percent of the vote.
Education featured prominently in the Oct. 15 debate, with Jafri focusing on what foreign students can do to boost the state’s flagging UC and state university system.
Jafri said students from other countries often have their tuition paid for them, and more of these students could help bolster a public education system that has had to raise fees and tuition costs in recent years because of a state budget crunch.
“People don’t want to pay more taxes,” he said.
Eggman, a Stockton city councilwoman and professor at California State University, Sacramento, said that education is a fundamental building block of a strong economy.
“I don’t think education should go to the highest bidder,” she said. “We will never grow our economy if we don’t invest in education.”
Eggman, a U.S. Army veteran, also came out in support of universal health care. However, she stopped short of supporting a plan to make single-payer health care — a system proponents say would be similar to the federal Medicare program — the law of the land in California.
“I don’t know if the state is the place to make it happen,” she said.
When it was his turn to talk about single-payer care, Jafri said that clinics in communities should be the focus for expanding health care options.
The two also traded opinions regarding the state and Stockton budget — the state faced a $13 billion deficit this fiscal year, while Stockton sought bankruptcy protection in June.
Eggman cast her vote in favor of declaring bankruptcy, saying it was a necessary but “incredibly difficult” decision.
She said not voting for bankruptcy would have forced the city to reduce the number of police officers in a city that saw a record 58 homicides in 2011 — a mark that was broken in 2012 only days after the debate.
“We cannot continue to cut our way out of this any longer,” Eggman said.
Jafri said that when he unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Stockton in 1996, he wanted more businesses to move to the valley from the Bay Area, which might have prevented bankruptcy.
He also called the City Council that voted for the bankruptcy a failure, describing its members as “not capable, not educated, (without) vision” and in need of replacement.
“When we have failed, we should resign and let other people do it,” he said.
But Eggman called the bankruptcy vote a clear demonstration that she would serve in Sacramento “with the most independence and passion that I have.”
“I think we need strong, effective advocates to go to Sacramento and tell our story,” she said.