Only republican voices at 1st district forum
WYE MILLS — Only the Republican candidates were able to speak at the League of Women Voters forum for those vying for Maryland’s First District congressional seat on Sunday, April 10, at Chesapeake College. Democrat Joe Werner did not show up, so fellow Democrat Jim Ireton was excluded.
The forum was conducted by the League of Women Voters groups serving Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties. The moderator, Alice Richie, said she was unable to provide a reason for Werner’s absence, as he had earlier agreed to be at the event.
The Republican candidates were Michael Smigiel, incumbent U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, Sean Jackson and Jonathan Goff. Each candidate gave his opening remarks before being asked three questions prepared by the League of Women’s Voters. Candidates had two minutes each to answer.
The three questions focused on immigration, health care and the environment.
“As the son of immigrants I realize the importance of immigration in the United States,” Harris said. “The fact of the matter is, if you trace every American far enough back there is an immigrant involved. But the immigration has to be orderly and it has to be legal.”
The other three candidates were also in agreement that they did not support the pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally. Jackson said he would prefer to offer jobs to unemployed Americans first before giving them to immigrants, and Smigiel said he supported immigration so long as it was legal.
“They’re not vetted, they’re bringing over diseases like the measles, mumps and tuberculosis,” Goff said about undocumented immigrants. “I mean you name it, they’re bringing it.”
The idea that immigrants pose a high risk for transmitting such diseases has been challenged. The Los Angeles
Times reported last year, for example, that “Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras all have measles immunization programs comparable to the United States.”
All of the candidates shared similar opinions when asked if they would continue to support the Affordable Care Act. Goff said the act would crash and that Congress needed to work to replace it. He was asked what he would choose to replace it with.
“As far as replacing it we have to look into it. I have asked myself so many questions of how we are going to replace it and what we are going to replace it with,” Goff said. “Well, that’s a good question, we all have the same questions but I am not the best at the Obamacare issue. But we have to replace it, we have to work on it.”
Jackson and Harris agreed on replacing the act with an open competitive market.
During each question Smigiel said that Harris had, in the past, stated he was against certain issues such as the Affordable Care Act, illegal immigration and pollution but voted on bills that supported the opposite. Harris said that was not true and that anyone who wanted to could look at his votes for themselves to see this was not the case.
The candidates were then asked questions written down by the audience and given the same amount of time to answer. A few of the issues they agreed on were that all of them were against abortion, against gun control and in support of equal pay for men and women.
They were also asked to discuss how they felt about the use of food stamps. Goff said that illegal immigration needed to be cleaned up first because the people of the country are paying for them to eat when the government should be focusing on Americans first.
“I grew up very poor, I know what the taste of gov- ernment cheese was like, I had the food stamps that you had to go to school to get your lunch with and it was embarrassing,” Smigiel said. “But, you know, what I learned was not dependency, I did not learn that I was entitled. I learned that when I was 12, if I wanted something, I needed to go out and shine shoes and sell papers.”
Smigiel said the government should focus on training people for jobs because he didn’t want people to become dependent on the state.
One of the final questions was about which presidential nominee they supported. Smigiel said he supported whoever got the nomination through the correct and honest means. Harris said he was in support of Ben Carson, while Jackson and Goff said they supported Trump.
“You have an individual that is trying to run on his own accord and I think it’s actually admirable that he has both parties despising him in some ways because he can’t be bought and he’s going to go in and hopefully do the right thing,” Jackson said.
The event ended with closing statements from each candidate and the moderator.
“It may sound sappy but when I looked into my new grandson’s eyes last night I thought what a lot of you probably think, all we want in this life is a better world for our children and grandchil- dren, that’s all,” Harris said. “We want it to be better than the one we had, and that’s what your congressman better be going to Washington thinking every single day.”
An emailed statement from the Ireton campaign expressed disappointment that he was excluded from the forum.
“While Jim is disappointed,” the statement said, “he is more upset that the voters who attend will be forced to listen only to the Republicans, led by Andy Harris.”
From left, Republican candidates Michael Smigiel, Rep. Andy Harris, Sean Jackson and Jonathan Goff attend a League of Women Voters candidate forum for Maryland’s First District in the U.S. House of Representatives on Sunday, April 10, at Chesapeake College.