The four candidates in the crowded and lively field for the Democratic nomination for the Second U.S. Congressional District seat will face off in a one-hour debate this Wednesday at 7 p.m., hosted by KATV.

Gwen Combs, Jonathan Dunkley, Paul Spencer and state Rep. Clarke Tucker will take questions from Roby Brock of Talk Business and Janelle Lilley of KATV, with KATV’s Chris May moderating. The debate will also be livestreamed via KATV’s Facebook page, as well as the Talk Business & Politics website and Facebook page.

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The four are vying to challenge incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill, who could be vulnerable in what is expected to be a strong year for Democrats. Independent polling has shown Tucker trailing Hill in a hypothetical matchup by a margin in the single digits.

Readers of this blog will be quite familiar with most of the candidates. Dunkley, a project manager at the Clinton School of Public Service, may be the least familiar name in local political circles (Spencer and Combs have been in the news a fair amount for their activism). His campaign manager is Sarah Scanlon, the LGBTQ activist and former state director and national LGBTQ outreach director for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign (you may remember her rabble rousing getting under the skin of Sen. Tom Cotton‘s staff). Scanlon recently wrote us to argue that Dunkley can make “French Toast,” and passed along a letter sent out to potential supporters by the Dunkley campaign. Here’s a sample, striking the strongly progressive chord you’d expect:


Things have been moving so fast since I jumped into the 2nd District Congressional race, I haven’t had the opportunity to properly introduce myself. My name is Jonathan Dunkley and I believe I offer the greatest opportunity to the voters in the 2nd CD to fire French Hill and replace him with a real progressive and here is why:

1. My mentors have always said be very afraid of the man who has nothing to lose. I have nothing to lose. I am not a career politician. I don’t owe anything to anyone except myself and my family. When my 9-year-old daughter challenged me about what I was doing to make the world a better place, I had to pause before I answered. I currently work as a college administrator helping shepherd the next generation through higher education; I created a non-profit that works with young men to help them become contributing members of society; for 10 years I have been travelling to other countries to help teach students from America the importance of giving back and doing service and still her answer was “It isn’t enough…Trump is President.”

2. I have a unique perspective on the issues that are absent from the national dialogue. We have to do more than just pay lip-service to the reality that health care is an issue. If we don’t have our health we don’t have a life. When my youngest daughter was born and my wife went for her first neo-natal visit, we were shocked to learn that our health insurance didn’t include maternity care. We had to make special arrangements and get an additional policy just for her so that she would have maternity coverage. Many families face the same reality, but most of the time they don’t have the means necessary to purchase additional insurance. I want to advocate for and help create a single-payer/Medicare for All system that alleviates the worry that young families will face under the current health care system.

3. When I talk about debt-free college, I believe that we can reach that goal by 2025. When we talk about education and our responsibility to the generation leaving college today, we need more champions who will do simple things like hold the for-profit loan industry to a standard that allows students to get an education without being the victim of predatory lending. Our students leaving our public schools and entering college need to know that they can get a degree (or a certification from a trade school) that won’t leave them in debt so deep that they can’t recover. Our parents left college (if they were lucky enough to attend) with a better debt-to-income ratio than the current generation. Students now are graduating from institutions of higher learning with as much as $300,000 in debt and they can’t get a job that provides a living wage.

4. I understand that the economy is wrapped up in all of these issues. We have to have healthy workers and workplaces, our workforce needs well-educated people to do the work, and I understand the needs of people who have been discriminated against and have lived without privilege because that is the community I come from.