With the election just more than a week away, Rep. Glenn Thompson and challenger Kerith Strano Taylor met to debate issue positions at WPSU studios at Penn State Monday night.
The debate was broadcast on both TV and radio and more than 100 people were in attendance. WPSU producer Patty Satalia served as moderator. Questions were drawn from members of the audience and community. In addition, each candidate was allowed to submit one question for debate.
The first issue addressed was jobs and what policies they supported to increase economic growth and entrepreneurship in the district. Thompson pointed to a farm bill he helped write as a member of Congress as a way he assisted job creation. Changing an overly complex tax code that can hurt entrepreneurship is something else he looks to work toward, Thompson said.
“I don’t know of too many social ills that can’t be cured with a good paying job,” Thompson said.
Strano Taylor said that job growth is stagnant in Pennsylvania and there must be a change because current policies had failed. Measures must be taken to improve the quality of jobs in the district, she said.
“In the 5th Congressional District, we suffer from underemployment more than unemployment,” Strano Taylor said.
Strano Taylor and Thompson were also asked how each would navigate the polarized, partisan environment in Washington. Both said working across the aisle was a goal if elected next month.
Fixing a “broken” Congress and working together to generate solutions and not blame each other has been a big part of Strano Taylor’s platform. Her background as an attorney would help in getting things accomplished, Strano Taylor said.
“I’m a negotiator. It’s what I do,” Strano Taylor said.
Thompson said his record as incumbent would show that he already employs a bipartisan approach because bills will not get passed and “certainly won’t last” without backing from members of both parties.
The candidates were able to weigh in on their positions on raising the federal minimum wage. Thompson said it was a measure he would support if he felt it would bring people out of poverty. At the end of the day though, he said they would still be making the minimum wage. Instead, Thompson favored initiatives that would assist people make more than the minimum.
“If you want a practical solution, job training is it,” he said.
Strano Taylor said she would support an increase in the minimum wage if elected because it would not only assist lower income families but would also foster economic growth because people would spend the additional income from a wage increase.
“That’s practical, dollars in your pocket,” Strano Taylor said, eliciting applause from some members of the crowd.
Questions regarding climate change were a popular theme, Satalia said, and candidates were asked their views on the subject.
Both agreed that climate change was happening. Strano Taylor supports increased funding for research on climate change and its effects so the nation can be better prepared. Thompson said the U.S. is doing the “right things” and pointed to statistics from the EPA that showed emission levels on the decline in recent years. He supports research on technology that will continue that trend.
A question about the Ebola virus made the debate. The candidates were asked if they would support a travel ban on people seeking entry into the U.S. from the west African nations most ravaged by the disease. Thompson said he supported such a ban at the present time. Strano Taylor said that a travel ban could potentially cause people trying to gain entry in the U.S. to do so through “porous borders” and said helping medical personnel with more education and gear is a better way to solve the problem.
Clayton Over can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @ClaytonOver.