Only repub­li­can voices at 1st district fo­rum

Dorchester Star - - Local - By SARAH DRURY sdrury@ches­pub.com

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.”

PHOTO BY SARAH DRURY

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.

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