Congressional Candidates Catty but Controlled at Last Forum Before Election
ST. MARY'S CITY - 10/31/2010
By Carrie Griffin Munn
The Center for the Study of Democracy at St. Mary’s College of Md. and the St. Mary’s Chapter of the NAACP hosted a highly anticipated forum for Fifth District Congressional candidates Friday, Oct. 29. Attendance exceeded available seats and crowds gathered inside and outside of St. Mary’s Hall to hear responses to citizen submitted questions from Democratic candidate and incumbent Steny Hoyer, Republican candidate Charles Lollar and Libertarian candidate H. Gavin Shickle.
Co-moderator and Professor of Political Science at the college Todd Eberly asked attendees to refrain from expressing support or opposition to the candidates’ statements, telling them they’d get their opportunity to do so on Tuesday, Nov 2., at the polls. Despite the request, many struggled to stifle their reactions during the debate.
Before the candidates arrived, some bickering in the crowd over seating arose and Union workers, there to support Congressman Hoyer, gave up their seats.
A hard-hitting question kicked off the forum, when candidates were asked their opinions on allowing partial birth abortion. Shickle said that while his party believes in legalized abortion, he is against the “brutal, barbaric procedure,” but understands potential mitigating circumstances.
Hoyer stated the late term abortions should only be allowed in instances when there are health risks to mothers and said earlier term abortion is a “decision that needs to be made by the woman.”
Lollar said, “The biggest advocates for abortion are those already alive.” He stated he is pro-life and said, “I’ll always be the voice of that unborn child.”
The candidates were asked about the benefits and drawbacks of “Cap and Trade” legislation for Marylanders.
Hoyer said, “Global warming is a scientific reality, it’s not something someone is making up.” He said the issue of acid rain was successfully resolved by similar measures, and that this bill seeks to ensure our world can survive and seeks to “treat that which God has given us with the care he would expect.”
Lollar said the idea of cap and trade is detrimental to businesses and pushes jobs overseas. “It’s not right for business, it’s not right for our country.”
Shickle said he believed it was the wrong direction to go in and that he would not support any cap and trade legislation whatsoever.
A question of term limits was posed. Lollar called himself an avid fan of term limits and said without them there becomes an “entitlement mentality.” He said limiting the time spent in the Congress and Senate will “let people go to D.C., do their job and then come back and live under the laws they have passed on their citizens.” He said even without mandated term limits, he would term limit himself.
Shickle said he supported term limits, so we don’t have people spending 30 years or more in government and “just do whatever they want to.”
Hoyer replied, “That’s an absurd statement.” He explained, “We have term limits. That’s what this forum is about. If the public thinks I don’t represent them, they’ll replace me.” He said it’s better left to the people to judge performance and keep or dismiss their representatives, adding, “I believe in the people’s judgement.”
A citizen asked what Congress must do first to tackle the national debt. Shickle responded, “We must cut spending and start paying down the debt.” He suggested bringing troops home and ending the expensive war on drugs would help achieve that goal.
Hoyer stated, “The deficit that confronts is dangerous and must be dealt with.” He said the only thing that shouldn’t be on the table for cuts is interest on the debt, adding, “America will pay its bills.” He said consideration must be given to changing “an immoral policy to keep spending without repaying.” Several policies, he suggested, have been put in place to address that.
Lollar said, “So much is not being revealed to everyday citizens about what’s being tucked into some of these bills.” He pointed to the lack of confidence in the current administration and leadership in Congress. Lollar said, “If, in fact, the general populous is struggling…you don’t vote yourself a pay increase,” and said the debt must be taken seriously.
Another citizen-posed question asked if illegal immigrants seeking medical treatment should be reported.
Hoyer answered yes and added that illegal immigrants are not offered coverage under the healthcare bill. He expounded on steps being taken to reduce the number of people coming in that we don’t know about.
Lollar said, “We can secure borders in Iraq and Afghanistan , but can’t do it here…because we’re not taking it seriously.” He suggested that we give our states the support necessary to confront the illegal immigrant problem.
Shickle said he wasn’t sure what that reporting would be used for, so wasn’t sure of how to answer the question. “We have enough undesirable people that were born here…we don’t need more people like that coming in to our country.”
A question referred to the people’s sickness of party politics, then asked the candidates “What sets you apart as a person?”
Lollar said he considers himself, “An American candidate who happens to be conservative and Republican.” Lollar recalled his service in Kosovo and said, “When bullets start flying, you don’t care if they’re Republican or Democrat, you don’t care what gender they are or race…you just want to make sure you can get out of the desert together and make it back to your families.”
Shickle said he became a Libertarian because of their belief that the wants of individuals supersede the wants of the state. He said he belongs to the only party that fights for the rights of the individual.
Hoyer said, “Bipartisanship is an objective we should all seek.” He talked about the standstills in the House that occur simply because of which party an idea comes from. “Rhetoric is easy, substance is hard,” he said. He illustrated several instances when he voted for something he viewed as good that his party didn’t like and other instances when he partnered with Republicans to get something done.
The candidates were asked what they would do for the district, if elected.
Shickle said, “Getting this debt under control…and getting government out of our daily lives.”
Hoyer referred to bumper stickers that used to adorn cars in Southern Md. which read, “Keep NESEA here,” adding, “I did that.” He said that those involved would say he made a “great deal of difference, working with others…” toward keeping all of the Pax River jobs here. He said he would continue to do so.
Lollar said he would create an atmosphere where our citizens can get back to work. He said that it is the hard work of admirals, captains and enlisted personnel that make the bases successful, adding, “It’s because of them, not one person.”
The candidates were asked with seniors receiving no cost of living increase, how they could justify federal pay increases.
Hoyer said the Feds got no raise in the past two years, adding, “We need to have constraint given the tough times that people are facing.”
Lollar said, "Our senior citizens deserve the best representation, especially where their Social Security is concerned.”
Hoyer commented on Lollar’s misinformation shared at previous debates and Lollar commented on Hoyer’s denials of things said, building up an obvious personal tension between the two candidates.
Shickle responded, “We’ve got to cut spending, across the board,” adding that includes a pay cut for elected officials.
At one point, Shickle asked the moderator to repeat the question, saying he was so entertained and distracted by the exchange between Hoyer and Lollar that he missed the question.
The candidates were asked about transportation in the region, the high unemployment and job creation measures and a Constitutional Amendment that would require a balanced budget.
A question about healthcare reform asked how it could be done without affecting service quality.
Lollar said, “I’m not sure if it can.” He referred to the bill as a “forced thing that people were opposed to.” Lollar said what people were so opposed to was not so much the healthcare bill itself as it was the “2,000-page, unread force-jammed-in-my-throat, tell me how you like it kind of thing.”He said the focus should be directed at the high premiums and unnecessary lawsuits.
Shickle also opposed the current healthcare reform and said he doesn’t feel comfortable that the courts will ensure it is constitutional and he doesn't feel confident it won’t be forced on the public.
Hoyer commented, “We are the richest country on the face of the earth with Americans who do not have access to quality, affordable healthcare.” He said the sentiment to let them go it alone is not consistent to his faith, “We’ve got to feed the hungry and care for the sick.” Hoyer said the bill sets up a market place for private insurance companies to offer their services fairly.
When responding to a question of how to bring the rate of unemployment down in the district, Shickle said, “Politicians and government cannot create jobs, entrepreneurs create jobs.” He said that to encourage people to risk their capital, “We must get the government out of our daily lives.”
Hoyer expressed his “Make it in America” agenda, urging Americans to "manufacture it, grow it and sell it to the rest of the world." He said putting this agenda front and center will produce jobs.
Lollar said his views on healthcare are not about a lack of compassion, but he wants accountability. He shared a story about a man in a soup line receiving free food from First Lady Michelle Obama, pulling out his blackberry to take a picture of her. He said, “It’s about finding ways to solve the problem that are at least constitutional.”
For closing statements, Lollar stood to speak and Hoyer suggested he take a spot at the podium. Lollar thanked him and said, “I hope to return the favor by letting you spend some more time with your grandchildren.” He pointed to the difference in philosophy between him and the incumbent congressman and stated, “He has failed as a majority leader.” Lollar said, “The opportunity to recognize Americans for who they are is right now…rebuild confidence in the everyday consumer so we can return our country back to the greatness it was founded on.”
Shickle said, “Mr. Hoyer doesn’t create jobs, he doesn’t even own a business.” He said that when Hoyer supported raising minimum wage, it put his family’s business under, and somehow his family didn’t qualify for any bailout. He said as a result, he also lost his home and lived in his car. “When you see things the way that I do, you realize… we are being lied to and manipulated all the time by self-serving individuals.” Shickle continued, “If elected, I will fight to get this government under control, I’ll fight to get this government out of our lives, and I’ll fight to put the power back in your hands, so that each and every one of us can reach our full potential in this country.”
Hoyer said during his many years in office, he’d heard many stories like Shickle’s and said, “That’s why I supported the unemployment insurance extension…so that the pain you see reflected here…it gets somebody to reach out a helping hand…not for charity’s sake, but because that’s what we should do as a moral society.” Hoyer said as for results, “You know what I can do and what I have done.” He listed his accomplishments in passing legislation that helped millions of Americans and said, “I hope you believe I have worked on behalf of our country, on behalf of our state, on behalf of our district and on behalf of a better future. If you do, I ask that you keep me on the job.”
The candidates shook hands and talked to citizens as they made their way out of the venue. Below are the links for each candidate’s campaign website, for your convenience, and TheBAYNET.com urges you to make an informed decision and exercise your right to vote tomorrow, Nov. 2.
Libertarian, H. Gavin Shickle: http://www.hgavinshickle.com/
Republican Charles Lollar: http://lollarforcongress.com/
Democrat Steny H. Hoyer: http://www.hoyerforcongress.com/
For video footage of the debate, courtesy St. Mary's College of Maryland, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jw_2XqDe5mk
Edited 11/1/10 12:15 p.m.-C. Munn