Monday, October 09, 2006

Sestak / Weldon 7th Congressional District Debate

This past Friday in the 7th Pennsylvania congressional district incumbent Republican Congressman Curt Weldon (CW) debated his Democratic challenger Joe Sestak (JS). The debate was replayed on PCN on both Satuday and Sunday. The Saturday replay started earlier than advertised and I missed the first part. I caught the part I missed on Sunday but having it split over two days breaks up the flow. Also, the rules of the debate, either requested by or simply agreed to by, both candidates, were somewhat unusual. Candidates did not get rebuttal time so each regularly took the first part of his answer time for the next question to rebut what his opponent had said in answer to the previous question. I'm just not mentally quick enough to keep all of it straight. Plus, a few of the questions were sufficiently vague or long-winded that it was difficult if not impossible to transcribe.

Taking all that into account, here are my rough notes. When I say rough I mean rough and I apologize for that and, as always, for any errors or misinterpretations. There are a number of things I missed. If you are interested in the race and if the debate is rebroadcast I encourage you to watch it for yourself.

Introductions by Barbara Zippy, President of the Delaware County Press Club.

Larry Mendte, born and raised in Lansdowne, served as moderator.

In the opening statement both pointed out humble origins.

The first question was on Iraq. JS says Iraq was never a clear and present danger and is a tragic misfortune. CW thanks JS for serving and serving honorably. He says war is always a symbol of diplomatic failure. UN passed 19 resolutions, each time Saddam Hussein refused to comply.

The second question was on illegal immigration. CW says we need to close borders and that terrorists come in through Mexico. We should also work on a guest worker program. JS also thinks we need to secure our borders but does not like the idea of building a wall, especially as people have already built a tunnel under the border. Mentions the possible use of unmanned aircraft to spot people crossing the border illegally.

The third question had something to do with small businesses owned by women. JS discusses the prejudice his sisters and his wife has faced. Cites a long list of CW's votes that he thinks were detrimental to women. He says unemployment in the district is down because people are moving out of it, and suggests ways of increasing venture capital funds. CW says he has been working on this topic for 30 years and that he has worked with Cheyney and Villanova to ease the transfer process and helped author the Family and Medical Leave Act in the House. [There was an exchange between the that the moderator interrupted.]

The fourth question was on mass transit and alleviating traffic problems. CW pledges continuing effort for mass transit and says he is part of the Commuter Caucus. Worked for funding on 422 project and projects in King of Prussia. Works with heads of local transit groups. Used to be chair of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. Rendell took money from PennDOT to give to mass transit. Will work for funding for AMTRAK and SEPTA. JS goes back to previous question and says CW has voted with current leadership 9 out of 10 times. Makes subtle reference to Mark Foley scandal. Then he turns to transit and said it must be done but done with accountability. He mentions earmarks and says they are important but the process must be made more transparent with names and votes next to them. We need a strategic day to day implementable energy plan. Must invest in public transportation. Must open up more transit lines. Also security. Open accountable investment in public transportation.

The fifth question was on the candidate's roots, where they grew up, etc. JS: born and raised here. Love this place. Voted here for 31 years. In the Persian Gulf where there were real threats and not conspiracies they sometimes got absentee ballots after the election. He does have a home in VA bought when he worked at pentagon. Still has it for daughter’s medical care. The military is the most respected group in America according to polls, congress next to last. He wants to fix that. CW: Lived her emy entire life. Taught school here, fought fires here, putting his life in danger. Youngest of 9 children in Marcus Hook. In his family you had a role, everyone has a role. He went to congress poor and will leave poor. He has never owned a share of stock and never will. He helped form the Community Action Agency, a nonprofit not a government agency. National Boeing union forced to endorse Sestak but rank and file will vote for him (Weldon).

Q6: FAA wants to change flight patterns at the Phildelphia Airport. One proposal would put more landing patterns over Delco. CW: Dealing with the government is not always easy. He worked to get helmet insert in Marine helmets. He will fight the delco proposal. He has had meetings at home and in DC. You’ll have the toughest fighter in America on your side in me. Fights CIA fights Rumsfeld. Will fight for this too. Philly owns Philly airport and NE airport but most of the runways are in Delco. JS: He really wishes CW had opposed Rumsfeld on war in Iraq. [Discussion of the V-22 which escaped me completely] Appreciates CW's public service. Poverty gone up from 6% to over 9%. Lost jobs. We need to address a lot of issues differently. Issue of airport began in 2001. Everyone wants to be a leader in a crisis to lead us out of a crisis but it is better to work to avoid the crisis in the first place. Of the 27 meetings held already only 1 in Delco, 0 in Tinicum. Must be addressed differently and early. Need to address other issues besides noise, like health [something about airplane fuel].

The seventh question concerned education and opening lines of communication between educators and legislators. JS says he is endorsed by many unions, local as well as national. When he went into navy of the Chief Petty Officers only 1 in 5 had a high school degree. Now they must have associates degree. CW voted in Feb for largest student aid cut in nation’s history. No Child Left Behind underfunded. CW particularly reposible for war, didn’t listen to Gen. Shinseki who wanted more troops. CW cut funding to NCLB. Only as good as the strength of our people, their health, etc. CW: He can’t believe JS takes credit for V-22. There are 25 teachers in congress, most of them lawyers. He says he didn't vote to take one dime from student aid. He paid off his student loans as did his wife. His 5 kids had student loans that he is still paying off. Don’t say he cut student loans. Has increased eduction funding by 45%. Increased special education funding. In America costs for basic education paid by the states. Go talk to the governor. Also about excessive property taxes. Rendell said he would eliminate property taxes. CW has outreach program for teachers.

The last question also dealt with illegal immigation. CW: Immigration is a federal issue. Get senate to move on immigration bill. House has taken position. After Nov CW will work on bipartisan measure with both houses. Need guest worker program. JS: Appreciate CW being there but is he being effective? Reiterates claim that CW cut student aid, including Pell grants. We don’t distribute brains according to property taxes. We need federal funding for education. Immigration is a federal issue. Protect borders. Bush only put fines on 4 companies for hiring illegal workers and only prosecuted 3.

Closing statements:

JS: Leadership was needed on 9/11. We still need leadership and a new direction of change. The future of our nation being mortgaged. CW only vote for minimum wage when it was tied to tax cuts for rich; otherwise he voted against it 8 previous times. JS is a home town boy who never forgot what it was like to live here.

CW: Thanks press club and moderators. Celebration of democracy. Not a perfect a system, but the best one. In his career he has brought people together. Some of his best friends in congress are Democrats. He an build consensus. He is being targeted by every national liberal group in the country. Joe has nationals. CW has locals. They live here they know what is like to work with me.


quadmom7 said...

Thanks for your summary - just one question. CW thinks he "has the locals", and that JS "has the nationals".... if so, why do I see so many Joe Sestak lawn signs here in Delco??

AboveAvgJane said...

I liked the part about him going to Congress poor and leaving poor. Maybe one of his kids will put him on the payroll of those cushy jobs he helped them get.

LVDem said...

If Weldon is leaving Congress poor, I'd question his personal management skills. I'd love to earn over 100k and be considered poor.

AboveAvgJane said...

LV, good point.