With just over a month left until Election Day, supporters and interested voters from across the Massachusetts Third Congressional District gathered at Concord-Carlisle on Sunday for debate between Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell) and challenger Jon Golnik (R-Carlisle) hosted by the League of Women Voters.
For anyone not in attendance, here’s a recap of views on certain issues provided by both of the candidates.
The Role of Government
Tsongas noted the shift between the 800,000 jobs lost during the last month of the Bush administration and the 300,000 jobs added last month along with the support of Republicans such as Romney campaign advisor Mark Zandy to highlight the impact of the stimulus packages passed several years ago.
She also noted work done in the district helping businesses as well as working to stop companies from sending jobs offshore, something Golnik agreed with and noted that was happening due to high corporate taxes.
Golnik believed that government’s role should be providing confidence to the private sector, who has not invested over $2 trillion to hire new workers due to fears over future tax and regulatory policies, particularly related to the Affordable Care Act.
He also supported reducing corporate tax rates from 35 to 25 percent and believed that the $225,000 per job brought from the money spent on stimulus could have been done far more efficiently by the private sector.
Later in the debate, Golnik took a jab at Tsongas’ earning the “Champion of Small Business” award from the National Small Business Association citing that the group received several million dollars from the Federal Government, something many small businesses could not depend on.
Tsongas meanwhile focused on the BP Oil Spill as an example of why some regulations are needed, although regulations in areas such as the Affordable Care Act could potentially be removed.
For Golnik, the proof was clear that in terms of job creation, the market should be the primary driver and that ecologically-focused “green” jobs can’t be produced at a large enough rate during a slow economy, particularly under government subsidies.
He also noted that jobs created through government subsidies were not stable, and with high unemployment in certain towns in the district, that should be the primary focus at the current time.
Tsongas disagreed, citing 75,000 jobs created through wind energy tax credits over the past few years as well as a responsibility to future generations on the issue of climate change.
Federal Government Spending
Again, the sides disagreed here, with each candidate largely echoing national party talking points.
Golnik believed that the issue was a spending problem, again noting that the $225,000 per job provided by the stimulus packages that he stated earlier could have come at a much cheaper price and that an entire audit of the federal budget could be done.
While he believes that fewer cuts would likely be needed than some in Washington are looking for, he stated that ordinary citizens have needed to live within their means and the Federal Government should do the same.
Tsongas countered that the issue of revenues versus spending was a false dichotomy, with current deficit concerns coming from squandering of the yearly Clinton surpluses of the late 90s, the Bush Era tax cuts, paying for two wars on debt and Medicare Part D.
However, Tsongas also noted that she would only support repealing the Bush Era tax cuts for millionaires, and that cuts can be made in areas such as ending subsidies for agribusiness, although later in the debate she supported legislation for smaller farms that was attached to food stamp assistance, citing the over 800 farms in the new Third District.
Golnik replied that food stamps were less efficient than helping low income residents find better jobs, and noted how Tsongas had harmed low income families by a vote he stated cut nearly three quarters of a billion dollars in Medicare reimbursement.
Tsongas praised President Obama’s efforts in regards to new sanctions in Iran and the adminstration’s efforts during the Libyan uprising, although she noted that increased security at consulates is necessary to prevent tragedies such as the death of the late American ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stephens.
Golnik replied that Stephens’ death was not an isolated incident due to the weaponry used and the fact that it occurred on 9/11 and urged a stronger American presence in the region, particularly in support of “red lines” that Iran would not be able to cross without war, going as far to call Iran a “failed state.”
Both candidates agreed that a nuclear Iran would be unacceptable and that American troops in Iran would also not be acceptable, with Tsongas saying that more work needs to be done to define red lines and Golnik saying that America’s role if red lines are crossed should be logistical support to Israel, who would provide troops on the ground in an invasion of Iran.
Campaigns and Money
Tsongas called the Citizens United decision “outrageous,” stating her belief that outside groups should be forced to disclose the amounts of their spending as well as where their money comes from, something she said Republicans in Washington had blocked.
Golnik countered saying that Tsongas had outspent him 7 to 1 in 2010, and by a larger margin this time due to support from left wing groups.
Here was one of the few areas where both candidates largely agreed on something, in particular, that women should receive equal pay for equal work compared to men, something put into law by the Lilly Ledbetter Act.
The two differed from there on women’s issues, with Golnik citing that President Obama and his supporters like Tsongas were harmful to women due to unemployment and increasing personal debt incurred by women across the country.
Tsongas struck back, noting that women would be unduly impacted by Congressman and Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s plan for Medicare, citing that Golnik strongly supported it.
Both candidates agreed this was an important issue and that employers hiring undocumented immigrants should be punished, with Tsongas stating that incoming immigrants should learn English and pay taxes and that bipartisan legislation would be needed.
Golnik however could not support amnesty for any immigrants who violated current immigration laws.
Tsongas supported a return to prohibiting assault weapons and limiting the size of ammunition magazines while Golnik believed that gun laws are ineffective in stopping gun related tragedies and that it was inappropriate to use mass shootings for political gain when it came to Second Amendment rights.
League representatives have indicated a full video of the debate will be available on the Concord-Carlisle Public Access website later this week.