Wilkes plays host to two congressional forums

Christine Lee, News Editor

Four congressional candidates couldn’t agree on many issues affecting voters but each one agreed on one thing: There are issues affecting young voters and they need to get involved. The candidates squared off on a variety of issues important to Penn. voters, from healthcare to foreign policy, to creating jobs.

Getting young voters involved

All four congressional candidates stress that young people should get involved and register to vote. Cummings said young people need to get involved because election results determine their future.

“They need to get involved as this is their future,” Cummings said.

Barletta thinks the most important thing that college students should know is to get to the polls, they need to make sure their voices are heard. Stilp also said young voters have to get involved and added they need to look at all the facts and numbers.

Cartwright issued a message to young voters about getting out there to vote.

“So many young people just take it for granted, our democracy, and they don’t realize that a lot blood and tears were shed to give them the right to vote,” Cartwright said. “My message to young people is inform yourselves of the issues, read the national newspapers, inform yourself about the issues and make up your own mind and vote.”

11th District Congressional Debate

The congressional candidates running in the 11th District said that jobs and federal financial aid were the best solutions to the hardships college students are facing. Rep. Lou Barletta and his democratic challenger Gene Stilp discussed these possibilities at a debate hosted by Wilkes and The Times-Leader on Monday, Oct. 8. The forum was moderated by Times-Leader editor Mark Jones.

Stilp said he is in favor of strengthening and preserving the federal Pell Grants.

“I want to make sure that we strengthen the Pell Grant system,” Stilp said. “All our colleges have to be strengthened because that’s where the innovation comes from, that’s where our future comes from, our colleges and our schools so therefore I’m in favor of keeping the Pell Grant system strengthened.”

Stilp also wants to make sure college students don’t go into severe debt because of tuition.

“We’ve got to keep those interest rates at a place where they are good for the college students but at the same time they’re not so severe whereby they stop the students from going to college,” Stilp said.

Barletta said the biggest challenge for college students is that more than 50 percent will not find a job when they graduate and the policies of the current administration aren’t working for college students.

He also added that America needs to get back its hiring spirit so college students know they have a better opportunity and the policies of the current administration are making it harder for them to find jobs.

“They need to understand that the policies of this government are making matters worse, making it harder for them to find jobs and we need to change that,” Barletta said. “I’m concerned that this November if we don’t change the direction and provide a clear, brighter opportunity for our students that we’re never going to be able to turn this country back again.”

In his opening statement, Barletta stressed the fact that the U.S. is $16 trillion in debt and the issues associated with that and the country’s 14.6 percent unemployment rate.

In his opening address, Stilp spoke about getting rid of waste, fraud and abuse in government.

Questions directed at the candidates included government gridlock, healthcare, representing constituents in light of the recently re-drawn congressional districts in the state, government reform, entitlement programs, national debt, job growth, foreign policy, climate change and the fiscal cliff.

17th District Congressional Debate

It was all about taxes and healthcare when 17th district running mates Laureen Cummings, the Republican and a member of the Scranton Tea Party, and Matt Cartwright, the Democrat, met on Oct. 10. for a  forum hosted by Wilkes University and The Times-Leader.  The forum was also moderated by Times-Leader editorial editor Mark Jones.

Cummings said the fair tax plan she is in favor for would be better for young voters as they would keep their whole paycheck and they wouldn’t have any more federal taxes taken out on them.

She emphasized that young voters should get involved as the $16 trillion debt is something they have to deal with.

Cartwright said he is in favor of supporting President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which would allow young people to remain on their parents’ healthcare insurance up to when they are 26 years old.

“I think that’s a good idea and a lot of people like it because really you don’t land on your feet until you’re at least 26 years old and it makes life a lot easier until you can stay on your parents’ insurance until then,” Cartwright said.

Cartwright said the recently struck down Voter ID law is important for young voters because unless they have a college ID, some young voters without a driver’s license would have a hard time voting.

“There are some young people that don’t have drivers’ licenses who are old enough to vote and unless they go to a college or a university where they have an ID that has an expiration date on it, they’re going to have a hard time voting,” Cartwright said. “Striking down the Voter ID law is a good thing for young people.”

In his opening statement, Cartwright talked about standing up for working families and building infrastructure to create jobs. He referred to the Tea Party as ‘the party of no.’ Laureen Cummings opened by talking about being an advocate for everyday people.

The issues discussed in the forum included small business and job growth, preparing for the role of representative, defense spending, energy, poverty, healthcare, transportation and highways, term limits for office, priorities as representative, campaign finance, national debt, foreign policy in the Middle East and tax reforms.