Strano Taylor, Thompson Debate Attracts Standing Room Only Crowd (Video)

Incumbent Congressman Glenn Thompson and challenger Kerith Strano Taylor agreed on several things Tuesday night at a debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters and attracted a standing room only crowd at the Clarion Main Street Center.

They agreed that government is broken, but they had different opinions on how to best fix it. The two candidates have engaged in a number of debates in recent weeks throughout the U.S. House of Representatives 5th Congressional District.

One person questioned if it was partisan politics that was the number one problem in getting anything accomplished in Washington and what would the candidates do to alleviate the obstruction.

“Over the last 10 months as we travelled this district this was the primary thing people talked about,” said Taylor. “Get to work. What they’re most exhausted about is the blame game. It reminds me about the case where you drop the glass on the floor and your mom walks in and asks who dropped the glass? No one cares who dropped the glass you’ve got to clean it up. You just have to do the work. In my school district we just settled a contract and it was the first time we did that in 25 years. It’s remarkable about what happens when people get in a room and talk about the challenge and how they’re going to fix it.”

Thompson acknowledged some partisanship but feels it is exaggerated by the media.

“Here’s my first suggestion; turn off the TVs,” replied Thompson. “The partisanship that is fostered by the main stream media to sell airtime is deplorable. Is their partisanship in Washington? There is, but we can get things done. I was one of the founders of a group called ‘no labels’ problem solvers caucus of Republicans and Democrats evenly split. We don’t compromise our values, but we come and tell each other what we can agree on and we use that as a basis for cost effective solutions. We have passed legislation that that group has marshaled through.”

Asked if they support a hike in the minimum wage, Thompson responded that he thought people should get more than the minimum wage and receive specialized training to get better jobs, pointing to openings in the Clarion area that need qualified applicants. Taylor supports an increase in the minimum because it will actually have a positive impact on the total economy.

Another question from the audience asked if either would support a tax increase to improve the federal budget. Thompson did not favor any new taxes and promoted finding new ways to increase revenue such as allowing shale drilling on national parks and similar land owned by the government.

Taylor suggested that before government land was drilled, we should increase revenue by closing the many loopholes in the tax system that allow wealthy individuals and corporations to pay fewer taxes than individuals and tax inversion plans by companies that move their companies and jobs out of our country to other countries for tax breaks.

Thompson agreed that the entire tax system should be revamped and simplified.

“One of the reasons I decided to do this was the government shut down for 16 days last October and I had people coming into my office that were affected by it, touched by it for a myriad of reasons,” said Taylor, a Brookville attorney, in her opening remarks.

“One couple who bought a federally foreclosed home, the government cashed their check and they couldn’t get a deed for it. When I’m calling down to HUD I get a recording that said I’m sorry this is a non-essential employee. This is a very real tangible consequence of that decision. I went and talked to some folks and had some conversations and I wasn’t satisfied with the justification of why that happened and the option was to be angry about it or do something. Who would have figured this would be what ‘do something’ would look like. I believe that our government can work better. I’m a negotiator by trade. I help families work out custody agreements when they don’t have lawyers and 85 percent of the time they walk away with an agreement. In an hour we’re able to settle the issues of families that are breaking. I’d like to be able to take that to Washington and use those skills to help the people of the 5th Congressional District get the government back to work for us.”

The three-term congressman outlined some of his accomplishments for his district.

“It’s been a privilege and honor to be your voice and your representative in Washington and to be a leader in the nation on many issues on your behalf, including education,” said Thompson. “I’m on the Education Workforce Committee on the K-12 subcommittee where I’ve worked on bringing about the needed reforms in No Child Left Behind and quite frankly, it’s leaving most children behind. I’m a leader on the education subcommittee working to make higher education more affordable, accessible and that includes the successful implementation of the more reasonable student loan rates. I’m a co-chair the career and technical education caucus for the nation. I’m proud to be endorsed and recognized by the National Education Association and PSEA, been recognized by the Association for Career and Technical Education as member of the year, member of the year by the National PTA.

“I’m very proud of those, but also in terms of jobs. I chair a subcommittee on agriculture and in Pennsylvania one in every seven jobs comes from agriculture. I’m very proud of the Farm Bill that was a jobs bill. I’ve been recognized as member of the year out of 435 by the American Farm Bureau but also by the National Farmers Union, by the National Association of Independent Businesses. I scored 100 percent by the National Association of Manufacturers. Finally in energy I serve on the National Resources Committee. I’m very proud because of my leadership and others we have increased domestic energy and I don’t know if you’ve noticed the gas prices like $2.99 a gallon and that’s good for all American families.”

In addition to the League of Women Voters, the College Republicans and Young Democrats from Clarion University also sponsored the event. The debate was also recorded by Clarion University Broadcasting and will air on the local cable channel.

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