Con­gres­sional can­di­dates de­bate is­sues

Record Observer - - News - By HAN­NAH COMBS hcombs@kibay­times.com

WYE MILLS — Repub­li­can can­di­dates for the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, Mary­land District 1, faced a tough crowd com­prised largely of Demo­cratic vot­ers at the can­di­date fo­rum spon­sored by the League of Women Vot­ers of Kent and Queen Anne’s Coun­ties and the League of Women Vot­ers of the MidShore. The fo­rum was held at Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege on Sun­day, April 10. Im­mi­gra­tion, health care and the en­vi­ron­ment were the key top­ics dis­cussed.

The fo­rum was orig­i­nally in­tended to in­clude both Democrats and Repub­li­cans vy­ing for the seat, but Demo­cratic can­di­date Joe Werner failed to show up, so his op­po­nent Jim Ire­ton, who did at­tend, was not al­lowed to par­tic­i­pate un­der fed­e­real elec­tion rules, ac­cord­ing to San­dra Bjork, pres­i­dent of the LWV of Kent county. Bjork en­cour­aged Ire­ton to re­main af­ter the de­bate to an­swer ques­tions from any who might be in­ter­ested in hear­ing from him.

So, the fo­rum was limited to Repub­li­cans in­cum­bent Rep. Andy Har­ris, Michael D. Smigiel Sr., Sean Jack­son and Jonathan M. Goff Jr..

Alice Richie led the fo­rum as mod­er­a­tor. Each can­di­date was given two min­utes to re­spond to each ques­tion.

Of the four Repub­li­cans at Sun­day’s de­bate, Smigiel and Har­ris both have ex­pe­ri­ence as politi­cians. Smigiel served 12 years in the Mary­land House of Del­e­gates and Har­ris six years in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Jack­son and Goff of­fered that their lack of ex­pe­ri­ence in po­lit­i­cal of­fice would pro­vide a fresh per­spec­tive.

“Peo­ple are tired of politi­cians,” said Jack­son, a for­mer Ma­rine and Mary­land State Po­lice em­ployee. “It is time to put forth a voice and be a cham­pion for the work­ing class.”

“Congress has failed us,” Goff said. “There are il­le­gal im­mi­grants run­ning all over the country and Iran is out of con­trol. We need peo­ple for the peo­ple. We must up­hold our con­sti­tu­tion; our voice is our vote.”

Goff was also the most vo­cal re­gard­ing his dis­sat­is­fac­tion with cur­rent im­mi­gra­tion laws, re­peat­ing his stance sev- eral times. “The govern­ment has failed us on our borders,” he said. “Il­le­gals are tak­ing jobs and bring­ing in dis­eases like measles, mumps, tu­ber­cu­lo­sis and H1N1.”

Smigiel re­sponded, “We can sup­port the le­gal method of com­ing in to this country. It has worked for years, through as­sim­i­la­tion not mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism.”

Jack­son op­posed a path­way to cit­i­zen­ship for the 11 mil­lion un­doc­u­mented peo­ple cur­rently re­sid­ing in the U.S. “First jobs must be of­fered to those citizens legally here in the states that need them,” said Jack­son, “be­fore of­fer­ing them to those with work visas.”

Har­ris said also did not sup­port a path­way to cit­i­zen­ship. “Borders only mean some­thing if you en­force them,” he said. Refugees need to be thor­oughly vet­ted by the De­part­ment of Homeland Se­cu­rity and the FBI be­fore they are al­lowed en­trance, said Har­ris.

The four were in agree­ment on is­sues such as sec­ond amend­ment rights, abor­tion and equal pay for men and women. All of the can­di­dates said they were pro-life and that life be­gins at con­cep­tion.

The can­di­dates agreed on the con­sti­tu­tional right to pos­sess a firearm. “The govern­ment can­not in­fringe on our right to own a gun,” said Jack­son. Some sit­u­a­tions, he al­lowed, may cause you to lose that right if you demon­strate you are not re­spon­si­ble.

When posed with the ques­tion of whether or not be­ing on the “No Fly” list would pro­hibit an in­di­vid­ual from pos­sess­ing a firearm, Har­ris re­sponded, “You are talk­ing about rights ver­sus ter­ror­ist con­trol. There needs to be a bal­ance [for which we have due process], due process is what sep­a­rates us from to­tal­i­tar­ian con­trol.”

The can­di­dates also found unity on the sub­ject of mil­i­tary fund­ing. “The world is a dan­ger­ous place,” said Har­ris, “and we are the na­tion that con­trols peace in the world. [To con­tinue to do so] we must re­store our mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­ity, we need 15 car­rier groups, not 11, not what the Pres­i­dent would have us do and bring it down to nine.”

“North Korea has their eye on us,” said Goff, “We need to keep them in check.”

Jack­son said, a stronger mil­i­tary is es­sen­tial, he be­lieves an in­crease in pay for those serv­ing will en­cour­age more men and women to en­list and serve their country.

Jack­son also pointed out the inequal­ity of ser­vice men and women’s pay when the ques­tion of fair pay for both men and women and liv­ing wages was asked. A Ma­rine pri­vate makes $9.41 an hour and has the po­ten­tial to risk their life, he said, and some­one at McDon­ald’s isn’t sat­is­fied with the same wage.

“Three of us sit­ting up here are vet­er­ans,” said Smigiel. His po­si­tion was to in­crease fund­ing to the mil­i­tary for mod­ern­iz­ing and giv­ing those serv­ing the tools they need to per­form their jobs.

“Honor their ser­vice by not aban­don­ing them on the field, or when they get home,” he said.

The de­bate was not with­out its mo­ment of heated ex­change. More than once Smigiel called Har­ris out on his vot­ing record, ac­cus­ing Har­ris of giv­ing one an­swer to the pub­lic, but vot­ing oth­er­wise.

Har­ris replied, “I de­tect a pat­tern ... tak­ing one vote out 3,600 votes and tak­ing it out of con­text.”

Smigiel stated that on en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, ex­pressly the Conowingo Dam, Har­ris voted to sup­port a bill that would kill the over­sight Mary­land De­part­ment of the En­vi­ron­ment has over the dam and that Har­ris did so be­cause of his ties with Ex­elon (his fourth largest sup­porter).

Har­ris con­tended the bill he sup­ported was to es­tab­lish a longer timeline for states to meet com­pli­ance and that he was in fa­vor of the clean up of the Bay be­ing a re­spon­si­bil­ity that be­longs to the Ag De­part­ment and not the EPA. Har­ris said he also helped amend leg­is­la­tion pre­vi­ously that would have placed im­pos­si­ble re­stric­tions on phos­pho­rous use to al­low farm­ers to be able to ap­ply a ben­e­fi­cial amount of phos­pho­rous to their crops.

Goff said he had al­ready ap­proached Mary­land Gov­er­nor Larry Ho­gan with an idea to use sed­i­ment ponds to col­lect run-off. Goff said he had ob­served this in prac­tice where a farmer was able to re­duce run-off of his farm by 70 per­cent reusing the wa­ter col­lected from sed­i­ment ponds to wa­ter his crops. Goff stated north­ern states in­clud­ing Penn­syl­va­nia, New Jer­sey and Delaware should be tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for the run-off they con­trib­ute to the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay.

On the ques­tion would the can­di­dates sup­port the con­tin­u­a­tion of the Af­ford­able Care Act, the au­di­ence was less than re­cep­tive to the can­di­date’s sug­ges­tions on health care re­form, at one point call­ing back to can­di­date Goff. Goff said he knew Oba­macare would crash and that the sys­tem needed to be worked on and re­placed. Col­lec­tively, the au­di­ence re­sponded, “with what?” Goff ad­mit­ted he didn’t know ex­actly what the so­lu­tion was and he gath­ered none of those as­sem­bled knew the an­swer ei­ther, to which one mem­ber of the au­di­ence told Goff, “but we’re not run­ning for of­fice.”

Smigiel said he had voted to re­peal the Af­ford­able Care Act. “An open mar­ket would al­low free en­ter­prise to work. Make health care por­ta­ble and re­move the bar­ri­ers be­tween the states,” said Smigiel. The over­whelm­ingly neg­a­tive re­sponse from the au­di­ence to Smigiel’s state­ment, “We have ru­ined the best med­i­cal sys­tem in the world,” forced the mod­er­a­tor to ask the au­di­ence to re­frain from fur­ther com­ment.

In clos­ing Har­ris said any­one con­cerned with his vot­ing record view could check for them­selves at www. house.gov. “There is no se­cret vote site,” he said.

Har­ris had en­dorsed Car­son for pres­i­dent be­cause of his can­dor and lack of po­lit­i­cal ties and said he would prob­a­bly still fill in the cir­cle next to Car­son’s name even though he had with­drawn from the race.

“We need to take con­trol of ter­ror­ism and de­clare war on ISIS,” said Har­ris.

Fo­cus on growth, eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties and cre­at­ing a bet­ter world for our chil­dren, Har­ris said, “Send me [back] to Wash­ing­ton and I will take care of our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren.”

Jack­son of­fered his 25 years of pub­lic ser­vice to the state po­lice and as a Ma­rine as a rea­son to chose him. “I don’t pre­tend to know every­thing,” he said, “but I want to of­fer di­rect con­tact to the peo­ple.”

“A politi­cian is like a dirty di­a­per,” said Goff, “You have to change it ev­ery now and then.” Goff promised he would get the govern­ment to work for the peo­ple.

“Don’t say you’ll do this and then vote that way,” said Smigiel. You can’t tell vot­ers you are go­ing to do some­thing and then vote the other way just be­cause it is part of big bill, he told the au­di­ence. One of Smigiel’s more in­no­va­tive ideas to boost the econ­omy, he said is his idea to sup­port a mono­rail or form of pub­lic tran­sit that will run down Route 50 from D.C. to pos­si­bly Ocean City.

“I will con­tinue to work across the party lines,” Smigiel said, and if elected, “you will still be able to reach me on my cell phone at 410-9200128.”

The U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive for District 1 rep­re­sents citizens from Ce­cil, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Caro­line, Tal­bot, Dorch­ester, Wi­comico, Worces­ter and Som­er­set coun­ties, and parts of Bal­ti­more, Carroll and Har­ford coun­ties. They are elected to terms of two years and spon­sor and sup­port leg­is­la­tion along with mem­bers of the Se­nate. The base salary for a U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive is $174,000.

The League of Women Vot­ers of Kent, the MidShore (Caro­line, Dorch­ester and Tal­bot), and Queen Anne’s have pub­lished, with sup­port from Adams Pub­lish­ing Group, a Pri­mary 2016 Vot­ers’ Guide, which is in­cluded in this week’s Bay Times. It fea­tures in­for­ma­tion on the can­di­dates that will be listed on Mary­land’s bal­lot for the pri­mary elec­tion, April 26, 2016.

Mary­land has “closed” pri­maries. You must be a mem­ber of a po­lit­i­cal party to vote in the pri­mary elec­tion, though all vot­ers may vote for non­par­ti­san of­fices such as the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion. For those who have not pre­vi­ously reg­is­tered, you may reg­is­ter dur­ing early vot­ing, April 14-21, at an early vot­ing cen­ter in the county in which you re­side and se­lect a party at that time.

PHOTO BY HAN­NAH COMBS

From left, Repub­li­can can­di­dates for the 1st Con­gres­sional District Michael Smigiel, in­cum­bent Andy Har­ris, Sean Jack­son and Jonathan Goff dis­cuss im­mi­gra­tion, health care and the en­vi­ron­ment at a de­bate Sun­day, April 10, at Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege.

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