Smigiel attacks Harris’ voting record in debate
STEVENSVILLE — Two First Congressional District candidates battled over their voting records in a Thursday, April 14, GOP debate, while two other candidates focused mainly on their views, rather than votes.
The four candidates — incumbent U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, former state delegate Mike Smigiel, former Maryland State Police Bel Air Barracks Cmdr. Sean Jackson and Harford County resident Jon Goff — mostly agreed and took similar conservative stances on various national issues during the debate, which was held at the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club in Stevensville.
While their stances on various issues didn’t differ much, it was apparent that three candidates are unhappy with the incumbent. Smigiel attacked Harris’ record during the debate, as he has for much of his campaign.
The candidates agreed on using the House of Representatives’ power to control funding to shut down the government to restrict spending; not using federal money to fund abortions; not allowing a pathway to citizenship for immigrants aside from making them go through the usual process of becoming a legal citizen; protecting small business owners’ religious liberties when it comes to providing health care on issues like contraceptives; preserving social security for future generations; getting rid of Common Core and eliminating or reducing the federal Department of Education; repealing or reforming the Affordable Care Act; performing drugs tests on welfare recipients; and not allowing civil asset forfeitures before a due process court hearing.
The candidates also agreed on reducing or eliminating the federal Environmental Protection Agency — along the same lines as the Department of Education — to return decisionmaking to the state level.
Smigiel focused on the Constitution and the authority it gives the government, and promised to operate within the confines of the Constitution and to fight those who overstep its boundaries. He specifically criticized President Barack Obama’s executive order to grant amnesty to immigrants in the country illegally, which the other candidates opposed, too.
“You don’t allow the president of the United States to usurp the authority of Congress,” Smigiel said. “You don’t stand there and vote to allow that to take place. When an executive exceeds their authority, you stop them.”
Many of the views Smigiel took were summed up by a statement which he made a couple times on Thursday, which is that big government should not be allowed to take a paternalistic role and tell states what to do.
All of the exchanges between candidates were between Harris and Smigiel, who pointed to Harris’ voting record on large thousandpage bills that deal with multiple issues that aren’t necessarily related, like the 2014 “Cromnibus” bill.
Harris, who has been the First District’s congressman since 2010, continually defended his record and said that he’s just doing what he said he would before winning elections.
“I told you I’d go to Washington and I’d represent a conservative philosophy that I think the majority of voters in the First District share and I believe that’s what I did,” Harris said. “I’m a real conservative who went to Washington and did exactly what they said. I went to Washington and it’s protecting your gun rights, it’s protecting your right to life, it’s decreasing spending and it’s fighting against the president’s illegal immigration policy.”
Harris and Smigiel both said they were the most conservative candidate on the ticket, but Goff and Jackson also staked out conservative views on issues.
Goff blamed a number of the United State’s problems on immigrants in the country illegally — from religious liberty issues over small businesses providing health care, to partly blaming them for trillions in federal debt, to the sluggish middle class economy. Goff also said the government is treating illegal immigrants better than veterans. Harris said that isn’t true.
When asked about religious liberties and requiring businesses to provide health care for items like contraceptives when it could be against the employer’s religious beliefs, Goff said, “This is what happens when we have open borders and the government is just letting everybody into this country.”
“It’s like the Tower of Babel where all these people built this tower to reach heaven, but nobody could understand each other, and that’s where we’re at right now,” Goff said. “Our American values are
starting to fade away and I want to preserve that. Let’s keep it that way. We can’t even say merry Christmas anymore.”
Goff, who lost to Harris in the 2014 Republican primary, said he is in favor of ideas like making English the primary language in the United States; building a U.S.-Mexico border wall; not allowing birth rights for children of illegal immigrants who are born in the United States; allowing private school tuition to be deducted off taxes; opening state lines to health care markets; and not allowing foreign countries to buy United States farmland.
Jackson focused on numbers and statistics to make some of his points, the least traditionally conservative of which is his support for legalizing marijuana, because “prohibition does not work.” Smigiel is in favor of letting states decide if they want to legalize marijuana.
Jackson supported ideas like revamping the United States’ welfare system and ridding it of fraud; significantly reducing the scope of large government agencies like the EPA, Department of Education and the Internal Revenue Service; instituting a flat business tax and reducing the corporate tax to attract businesses and grow the United States’ tax base.
Jackson said he’s also for enacting significant tariffs on foreign products that are similar to ones made in America; giving education decisions to the states; using the Keystone Pipeline and exporting oil; and impeaching President Obama. He also opposed citizenship rights for children of immigrants in the country illegally, and supported building a wall on the border.
“I’m just like everybody else. Eighty-three percent of Americans are dissatisfied with Congress — I too am one of them,” Jackson said. “I just want Congress to do what’s right. I want to represent the working class. It’s tough right now in society — tough to (get) jobs, tough to keep the money in your pocket when the money is being spent lavishly up in Congress and we need to find a better way.”
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From left, Sean Jackson, U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, Jon Goff and Mike Smigiel are pictured at the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club in Stevensville on Thursday as the GOP debate starts. All are Republican candidates running for Maryland First Congressional District.
Franchot thanks election volunteersPHOTO BY MIKE DAVIS
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, center, stopped by the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department Tuesday afternoon, April 19, to thank the volunteers working the early voting station. After visiting Kent Island, Franchot visited election volunteers in Easton. Early voting ended Thursday at 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 26, is Maryland’s Primary Election. Polls will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.