Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Congressional Candidates Provide Views on Important Topics

On Tuesday evening, the candidates for the 9th Congressional District met in a forum hosted by the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce.

The event, which took place in D.H.H. Lengel Middle School Auditorium, Pottsville, allowed the six candidates to give their views on 6 different topics that were chosen by Schuylkill Chamber members.

The six candidates, 3 Democrat and 3 Republican, included Laura Quick (D-Lebanon County), Gary Wegman (D-Berks County), Denny Wolff (D-Columbia County), George Halcovage (R-Schuylkill County), Dan Meuser (R-Luzerne County), and Scott Uehlinger (R-Berks County).

Prior to the event, the candidates were provided 12 topics prepare, but were not told what 6 would have been chosen for the event until they arrived.  Each candidate was allowed 2 minutes to speak on the topics given.

The evening was opened by Pottsville Area Superintendent Jeffrey Zwiebel, who welcomed the roughly 200 in attendance.

Zwiebel also introduced the moderator for the evening, Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce President
Robert Carl.

"The Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce is pleased and honored to be able to host the 9th Congressional District Candidates Forum.  With the new 9th Congressional District, and the very short time available to have the six candidates who are seeking the Congressional seat presented to the public, the Chamber feels this opportunity in Schuylkill County for awareness is extremely important", Carl Said.

Health Care

The first topic of the evening was health care.  Quick opened with "Why don't we have Health Care coverage for all people? Why we pay twice as much per capita for Health Care Cost?  Why do we pay the highest pay the amount for pharmaceuticals than any other modern nation?".

Wegman stated "Health Care is the number 1 issue on all of our constituents mind, and I understand why.  We fix Health Care, we fix everything else".

Wolff talked about Health Care being a personal issue for him.  His younger son suffered from a disease at a young age that required him to receive a liver transplant.  "While he was being evaluated at different hospitals across the country, they never asked if I was Democrat or Republican, but they did ask if I had Health Insurance.  While meeting with other families in waiting rooms, some other families were not as fortunate to have health insurance, and were looking at bankruptcy to get their child treated.  This country is too good for that".

Halcovage talked about his background as insurance agent and health care.  "One of my frustrations for what happened in Congress when President Trump came in and after talking about repealing Obamacare for 7 1/2 years.  When it came time to repeal, there wasn't a plan to replace it.  That's wrong."  Halcovage also talked about moving to a more privatized system of health care that will be controlled by the people and not government.

Muesser talked about the businesses that suffered under Obamacare, "The idea that government was going to take over 1/6th of our economy is laughable.  The inability to run a $3 trillion enterprise is not something the government should be engaged in."

Uehlinger agreed with the statements of his Republican colleagues.  "As somebody who has lived overseas for a period of time, I've seen what the one payer system is and will be utterly ineffectual."

Workforce Development

The second topic candidates spoke on was Workforce Development.

Muesser began by speaking about President Trump's America's first initiative "We do need to reduce taxes, we do need small business and large business, less regulations, keep energy costs low, and repeal and replace Obamacare.  All Government can do is create an environment for a health economy. Government does not create jobs."  He also focused on Workforce Development needs to start at the high school level.

Uehlinger agreed with Muesser's statements in the sense that Workforce Development needs to be addressed in the private sector and school level. "We do have to somehow bring it out to our younger students the possibilities of work in the technical field in order to deal with this labor shortage."  He also focused on deregulation.

Halcovage talked about his experience as Schuylkill County Commissioner and workforce development.  He disagreed with his Republican colleagues, "We do have good people in our schools advising our young people as to what their career paths are.  One of the great thing we have done here in Schuylkill County is the YES program, which teaches young people what the skills are to be successful".  Halcovage also talked about the Opioid Crisis impacting this subject due to people being unable to pass drug tests to get jobs.

Wegman talked about working on the problem at "ground zero", the education level.  "The private sector needs to buy in to prepare our workforce and train our students to enter the work force.  This starts at the Pre-K and All Day Kindergarten level, the government needs to fund this, you and I need to fund this.  Education matters and if we start at this 4 year old level, we can have kids reading by 3rd Grade with less dropouts."

Wolff talked about industries working with private industries working with the technical schools.

Quick, a former teacher, talked about not pushing everyone to colleges and universities.  She also focused on apprenticeships and developing through unions.

Second Amendment

The candidates all agreed and supported 2nd Amendment and that the existing background checks need to be stricter and enforced.

Quick and Wegman, who both stand with Moms Demand Action, talked about common sense regulation of gun laws.  "I also stand against the corporate greed that has driven a wedge between responsible gun owners and making people afraid that someone is trying to take away their guns. It's not true".

Uehlinger "What we don't want are laws that inhibit legal ownership and do nothing that stop criminality.  That's often what Democrats on a National level have offered".  He also talked about arming qualified teachers "This already done in 14 states and seems like a sensible solution".

Halcovage focused on keeping the guns out of those with mental issues and having a criminal record, through the current laws we already have.  "The state has closed down mental health beds.  We have families that do want their loved ones come back to them because of this.  They are the ones we have to make sure that don't have guns.  I think that using the enforcement we presently have and following those laws, we can do that safely".

Muesser talked about being a lifetime member of the NRA and the seriousness of protecting our schools.  "I'd be willing to add new laws for this (school protection), but I'm not for any new laws that prohibit or ban the private people to keep and bare arms."  Muesser also pointed out he is the only candidate recommended by the Firearm Owners Against Crime.


Halcovage spoke on overregulation.  "One of the things the president has done, for every regulation that is put in place, he wants to get rid of two. All of our industries are being overregulated.  We have to make sure regulatory barriers that get in the way of infrastructure projects have to be streamlined and shortened"

Muesser talked about working hard, if elected, to get on the transportation and infrastructure committee. "I'd work to get on the committee in order to benefit of the future of the federal bill on infrastructure".

Quick talked about her worries of privatizing the infrastructure, siting a project for Verizon "They were given $200 Billion for the project and have yet to do an efficient job across the United States".

Wegman talked about driving around the 9th District and losing cell phone coverage and agricultural areas not having broadband coverage.

Wolff talked about the condition of roads and bridges "When the gentleman picks up my milk, he has to driven 10 to 15 miles out of his way because a bridge isn't safe enough to drive his truck across.  That costs everyone money"  He also talked about improving our ports as being a global supplier.

Role of Government

Wegman stated "The Government needs to protect the citizens when the citizens are unable to do it for themselves".

Wolff talked about helping citizens not hurting them, "The role of the Government should be get them in compliance, not to put them out of business".

Muesser referenced a good umpire at a baseball game.  "Play the game by the rules, but outside of that be as unnoticed as possible."

Halcovage agreed with his Republican colleagues as government is best handled at a local level.  He used money for workforce investment as an example, "I see money that comes down from the state, and if the state does not have their budget passed, the money freezes there."

National Security

During the National Security portion, the Republicans agreed on President Trump's America's First Initiative and immigration.  They agreed we were all safer than we were in recent years but stressed the need to build a wall.  They also agreed that funding needs to be increased for the nation's military.

The Democrats focused on talking about improving the immigration system and improving cyber security. Wolf, Wegman, and Quick all opposed the wall.

Wegman reverted back to economics, "The best defense is a healthy economy."

Closing Statement and #1 Issue Facing Our Nation

Finally, the candidates were given two minutes for a closing statement.