I attended a candidate forum last week that was sponsored by the Hagerstown Chamber of Commerce. The candidates for U.S. Congress for the 6th District were in attendance: Dan Bongino (R), John Delaney (D), and George Gluck (Green Party). I was so excited to see Bongino and Delaney in the same room. I thought that watching an exchange of ideas between these two very intelligent, charismatic, candidates from different sides of the political divide would be an interesting experience. I thought that there would be some in the audience that resented how a Republican representative was gerrymandered out of our area. I thought with the country, I'd dare say the world, afire the topics would be serious and riveting. Much to my disappointment, this had to be the dullest candidate forum I have ever attended! Before anyone thinks that a room full of business owners is certain to be dull, let me say that I have attended many of the Eggs & Issues events at the Chamber, and I can honestly say that they were never dull, particularly when there has been a political element. For instance, when Lt Governor Anthony Brown was the speaker, just as the campaign season began (wink wink), it was a packed house and the excitement was electrifying (see related link 1). There was a hustle bustle of handshaking and back slapping and the audience was full of expression. At another event where John Delaney was the solo speaker, also at the start the campaign season (wink wink), again it was a packed house and a very energized atmosphere (see related link 2). My favorite event was when the local Delegation was expected to submit to yet another pre-legislative bullying by a roomful of Liberals, and instead they completely took over the discussion and turned it back on the Chamber (see related link 3). Papers were rustling, people were whispering and snickering...I think someone at my table called it a bloodbath. I noticed immediately that this event was going to be different. It was poorly attended, estimating that about 60 people were seated at tables, and I would guess that some of those people were part of the candidate's team or family members. I didn't see many of the familiar faces of those who normally attend, and the mood in the room was noticeably subdued. There was virtually little to no reaction to anything that was said throughout the entire event. Did they not care? Were they already decided? Maybe they missed Bryan Poffenberger. Even the questions for the candidates did not come from the attendees, being pre-decided by the Chamber, and some were too long with sub-questions. With current events in the news there were much more interesting questions begging to be asked. Dull...damn dull!
We had three candidates in attendance. This was the first that I had seen or heard from Gluck. This is because apparently he decided to run a campaign without money, so that he would qualify for public money, after every one voted for him having never seen or heard of him. Make sense? It made no sense to me, but Gluck seemed like a decent and intelligent candidate and I enjoyed learning more about the Green Party, even though I disagreed more often than not.
Dan Bongino was passionate about the issues. He presented as honest and straightforward, giving unrehearsed, unedited, and sometimes hard answers to the questions. John Delaney gave rehearsed answers that I have heard from him before, almost word for word. As usual, he continued to try to brand himself as non-partisan. He was asked 8 questions in less than an hour and he used the word non-partisan 14 times.
|Delaney brands himself as nonpartisan.|
The three opening statements were so completely different that it would seem that they were not competing for the same office. Bongino asked who we want to be in control of our businesses, our children's education, and our healthcare, stating that government has gotten too big and intrusive. This was the first time that I finally heard a candidate for any office mention the failure of Obamacare, calling it a "disaster", because it put the decision-making process into the hands of unelected bureaucrats. Delaney's theme was "I am one of you", claiming to know and understand first-hand their (business owners) challenges. He said he will focus on the competitiveness of Washington County, the 6th District, and the U.S. as a whole because if we can't compete we will not be able to create jobs, have a decent standard of living, or grow the economy. He also claimed that he is someone who gets things done by operating in a non-partisan manner. Gluck explained his journey from the Democratic Party into the Green Party, and asked everyone to vote Democrat, but to make sure it is the one with Green Party next to his name.
1. What is your vision for Western Maryland, and how should Washington County position itself for economic success, and what's your role in helping achieve this vision? I told you the questions were long! I think they got 90 seconds to answer, which means they talked fast. Delaney talked faster than I could take notes. Gluck, in contrast, took his time to use a lot of words, to say very little. I will paraphrase the answers.
Bongino stated that the economic development problems in Washington County are the government's fault. The Federal corporate tax rate is too high, State taxes and regulations burdensome, and Obamacare a job killer, all causing a mass exodus out of our state, particularly in Washington County, as we are situated in a tri-state area. He would work to lower the corporate tax rate to 17-20 percent, which is closer to the international average, and then he is sure that people would return to the state. He did not indicate, however, what he would do about Obamacare.
Delaney said that Washington County had some unique assets, naming the I-81 corridor because it runs between the "super-economy from Boston to Richmond", as it directly affects the logistics distribution and transportation industries in our area. However, I recall at his last visit to the Chamber he stated that we would NOT play a role in the economy of the super-region of Boston to Richmond (see related link 2). He plainly stated that we would never be a hub of any great importance in this region, but that we could build on transportation and logistics, in other words, trucking and warehousing. So he would work to get funding to expand I-81, agreed that the Federal corporate tax was too high (did not promise to push his party to lower it), and referred to his bill called the Partnership to Build America Act (HR 2084). This bill attempts to get people to bring their money back into the U.S. from overseas. For every $1.00 that they "invest" in infrastructure they can bring $4.00 back tax free. You can read about the bill at http://delaney.house.gov/information-on-congressman-delaneys-infrastructure-bill.
Gluck said that he would introduce worker co-ops so that people had more money in their pockets to support businesses.
2. Will you support funding for the widening of I-81, and how can you secure that money?
Bongino said the direct answer is yes. He said that we cannot view I-81 in a vacuum, but we must also look at I-270, which he called "The Big Ugly". He said that the traffic backups on I-270 are productivity hours lost and feeding a smog atmosphere. He referred to Delany's bill, the Partnership to Build America's Act (HR 2084), as "The Crony Bank". He said that those companies had already been taxed and that money should go back into the businesses not infrastructure. He said $1T of stimulus money was to be spent on infrastructure and it was wasted because there was no accountability. The money should be pumped back into businesses and user fees paid by those who use the roads should pay to expand them.
Delaney would make funding for widening I-81 top priority and claimed to have already been working on it. He said that he would work to get Federal and State funding, but he would also take advantage of his bill HR 2084.
Gluck said that HR 2084 was a way to bring money into the U.S. barely taxed, which had been allowed to go overseas untaxed. He predicted that not much of the money coming back would be used for infrastructure. He did see the importance of I-81 and would support funding it.
3. Do you think that compromise, consensus, or at least finding common ground on issues is a necessary function of governance, and how will your voice change existing dysfunction of the U.S. Congress?
Bongino said that he will compromise, but not his core values. He referred to himself as a Conservative Libertarian, which was new to me. He said, " I will not ever vote to raise your taxes under any circumstances. If you want me to compromise on that it will never happen." He said that there were issues that he could compromise on, but the toxic atmosphere and outsiders with political leverage would make it impossible. He said that areas of agreement could be corporate tax, school choice, and revisions to Obamamcare. He knows elected Democrats who would agree to make changes to Obamacare, but it would be political suicide. He said it is time to do what's right and not worry about re-election.
Delaney repeated two statements from previous forums that he says indicate the spirit that he brings to Congress: 1) The best business deals are those when everyone feels a little bad when they are done, and 2) You don't say bad things about people. You can factually correct them, but work in a constructive manner. He said that he would take really good ideas from the Progressive Movement and good ideas from the Conservative Movement--I wish I could have asked him to name one--and forge them together. He avoids the TEA Party like the Ebola Plague that no one mentioned. He would also like to see election reform so that Independents can run and have better representation in government. He just neutralized Bongino and Gluck.
Gluck stated that there used to be overlap in the Parties, but that's not true anymore. He said that electing him would force compromise because everyone would take note that the voters are fed up.
4. What is your position on issues around immigration?
Bongino said that this is very personal to him because his wife is a first generation immigrant from Columbia that came here legally as a child. It cost them a lot of money and time for her to become a citizen. Amnesty is not the solution. They have to follow the rules. He said that "amnesty is not benevolent and not compassionate. It inserts people into a black market economy that doesn't benefit us and doesn't benefit them. He would push for mandatory E-verify and work to secure the borders sooner rather than later.
Delaney's grandfather was born in England, only had one arm, and came here to work in the factories. His other grandparents were from Ireland. He grew up in NJ with all first generation immigrants. He said that there is a bill in the Senate now that addresses every flaw in the system. He called illegal immigrants undocumented immigrants. He said the bill is stuck over ideology.
Gluck has a green card! He came here from Prague when he was 16 months old. He said the American dream is not to be a millionaire, but only to be part of the middle class. He supports implementing E-verify and securing the borders. He said that we invited them in to work, so we are obligated to make them citizens.
5. Do you support a path to citizenship for immigrants? [The question did not specify legal or illegal.]
Bongino said we already have a path to citizenship! We have a legal process to come here legally. He said that this is the only crime where it is discussed in terms of sympathy or compassion for the lawbreakers and not for those who suffer the consequences of it. He knows an Ecuadorian business owner who said that his business was being destroyed by illegals undercutting his business. Ignoring the laws provides incentive for others to break our laws. He asked, "How fair is that to my wife? Do we get our $10,000 refunded and compensated for two years of hard work? I don't agree with Obamacare, but I don't get to ignore it. Why do others get to ignore a law and get rewarded for it?"
Delany supports amnesty with the conditions contained in the Senate bill. Criminals should not be offered citizenship. He stated that it is our fault that immigrants are here illegally because we did not enforce our immigration laws or secure our borders. Since it is our fault, we must offer them a pathway to amnesty. They can get in the back of the line for approximately 13 years and go through the process. Deporting 11 million people would be immoral and a bad bottom line for the U.S.
Gluck agrees with Delaney because he believes we invited the illegals here to work, so we must offer amnesty. However, he thinks that E-verify should be strictly enforced.
6. What proposals do you have on environmental issues related to business and agriculture?
Bongino stated that the agriculture community is vital, yet it is being suffocated by over-regulation at the state level. At least at the Federal level he could be a microphone to affect state policy. He said there should be a hard cost benefit analysis for every EPA regulation, with a sunset provision to reevaluate over time. This should be done without social cost using only hard metrics like capital cost.
Delaney said that Federal and State level regulations overlap making it hard to do business in Western Maryland, and that farmers have not had a sufficient voice in Annapolis. He is creating a Western Maryland agenda for the next legislative session in Annapolis. He noted that it is not a part of his job, but he can use the position to shine a spotlight on issues. He too thinks a cost benefit analysis would be useful and would ensure that there are no overlapping regulations.
Gluck is aware of a farm that uses about 200 solar panels to power the entire farm, and he personally uses it to heat his water and half of his electric. He would encourage more of that and the use of wind farms.
7. What is your opinion on term limits for U.S. Congress?
Bongino publicly committed to only 3 terms (6 years). After 6 years he has seen that people become tempted with fame and fortune and could sell out to lobbyists. He would support a Constitution amendment.
Delaney said that when he first ran for Congress he ran on an ethics platform that included term limits for Congress to 6 terms (12 years). He read somewhere that it takes 4 years to become an expert on something, so he believes 12 years would be most efficient and effective.
Gluck said that we already have term limits in the form of elections. He believes that we need election reform, allowing run-off voting to better enable Independents to be elected.
8. It has been stated that the proliferation of safe districts, which almost guarantees either Democratic or Republican control in each district has effectively eliminated bi-partisan cooperation and has contributed to the gridlock in Washington. What are your views on this issue?
Bongino said that Delaney's Open Our Democracy Act is ironically an incumbency protection program. He thinks the Republican Party has been destroyed using gerrymandering, and like the Republican Party or not, we need both parties represented. "We can't operate under a one-party monopoly. This region needs a voice, and you don't have one right now. You are being ruled, not governed, and I intend to change that."
Delaney agrees that it has contributed to the gridlock and referred to his Open Our Democracy Act, which he claims opens up the primaries for everyone to run and for everyone to vote.
Gluck again said he would like to institute run-off voting. He believes that Delaney's bill will make it virtually impossible for a third-party candidate to get elected.
Bongino's said in his closing statement that he has knocked on thousands of doors and the most common theme was "I'm moving". He said that for sale signs out-number campaign signs and Halloween decorations. You have no voice in this state. There was a time when Marylanders would never leave their homes, but this one-party state is driving you out. "If you want to change that there is only one way to vote."
Delaney said that two years ago he promised to represent this district and stand up against special interests in Annapolis and work in a bipartisan way to get things done. He said that he has done all of these things and has been honest and transparent. His focus will be on jobs and growing the economy.
Gluck said that he will sit with the Progressive Caucus. He will be a catalyst for change as the first Green Party member of Congress.
As soon as the meeting ended Delaney quickly ran out the nearest exit, giving no one a chance to speak to him one-on-one.
|Bongino hung around to answer questions.|
1. Democratic Candidate for Governor, Lt Governor Brown, Speaks to the Chamber, http://tinyurl.com/p7ulcbg
2. Congressman Delaney: First Impression http://tinyurl.com/p98wsk2
3. Washington County Delegation Rebukes Chamber of Commerce, http://tinyurl.com/kxnexmb
4. Herald Mail Editorial, Delaney’s voting record shows strong partisanship, http://tinyurl.com/q6m672l
5. Hey Delaney: Don't Call Us...We'll Call You! http://tinyurl.com/ol9wbvq