GAITHERSBURG — Eight individuals running for Congress answered questions on topics such as national security, immigration and the Second Amendment at the Holiday Inn Jan. 7 for the Congressional District 6 debate.
Terry Baker, Scott Cheng, Robin Ficker, Amie Hoeber, Frank Howard, Christopher Mason, Harold Painter and David Vogt each have their eyes on Democrat John Delaney’s District 6 seat in Congress.
When asked, each candidate that evening said he or she supported the Second Amendment and would protect the right to bear arms.
When asked whether they supported abortion rights, all but one said yes. Hoeber would not say she supported it; however, she said she stands by the current law, under which abortion is legal.
Members of the panel asked some candidates about whether they would make changes to institutions such as health care.
A panelist asked Cheng whether he would propose legislation regarding Affordable Care Act, following a Congressional bill to repeal it.
Cheng, a physician, called the act a “mess-up” and said health care should be an agreement between the doctor and the patient.
With regard to immigration, Baker and Howard said they supported building a wall along the Mexican border, as presidential candidate Donald Trump has advocated.
Ficker and Painter answered a question about immigration. Ficker did not seem bothered by illegal immigration to the U.S.
“There are millions of very bright people around the world who would make very fine Americans that could contribute to our society and bring jobs to Western Maryland , and I am all for… bringing those people to the United States,” said Ficker.
Ficker compared the process of obtaining citizenship with getting married and paying taxes.
“If people are here illegally, it’s a legal process. You have to go through the legal process just like you do when you get married, just like paying taxes as a legal process for people to go through to become citizens, and I’m for that. “
Painter, however, disagreed and said the topic is an issue that corresponds with his agenda.
“I think immigration is both a problem for national security and for what’s, to be honest, my main agenda and that is restoring American economy and the working man to the middle class,” said Painter.
Baker said he thought some members of the Islamic State are in the U.S. and would support a war against ISIS.
Trump said he thought all mosques should be closed. Baker did not agree.
“Closing, no,” said Baker. “Not at this time,” because “I’m not so sure everyone that goes there is a terrorist.”
Some candidates said that other issues were more important to them than the environment and sustainable energy. A panelist asked Baker whether he thought climate change was the biggest threat to the nation.
He said “getting rid” of terrorists is the nation’s priority.
“These terrorists out there, they want us dead,” said Baker. “They hate us.”
A panelist asked Vogt if he supported the coal industry, and he said yes.
“Our Western Maryland population was built by coal,” said Vogt. “Killing industries like Senator Delaney has done with coal is absolutely deplorable.”
Mason said he supported energy that was “economically suitable” and that would result in energy independence. He said he supported all types of energy, including coal and nuclear energy.
Candidates’ responses to questions on Delaney’s stance on the Syrian refugee crisis came in varying levels of sentiment but for the most part did not encourage additional refugees due to distrust of the effectiveness of the vetting process for refugees.
Howard echoed the governor’s statement that allowing refugees in under a weak vetting process was a security risk.
“It’s extraordinarily dangerous to let in Syrian refugees without proper vetting,” said Howard.
Following the debate, Hoeber said although she thought the vetting process was detailed, having background checks and multiple interviews, Syrian documents and records were not organized enough to be reliable sources of background information.
“I think it’s absolutely impossible to do with the Syrian refugees that deployed here,” said Hoeber. “We cannot vet their unconnection with terrorism. There isn’t enough data of the society in Syria didn’t keep their source of records. We wouldn’t have access to those records even if (Syria) had kept (the records).”
Howard and Vogt and said they supported the governor’s decisions about whether to allow Syrian refugees to live in the U.S. and about seeking a balanced budget.
Howard said Hogan and other governors in the U.S. who do not support welcoming Syrian refugees were doing “the right thing.”
Vogt said he agreed with Hogan’s approach to seek a balanced budget. He added that Hogan had a strong command of the state’s budget. He said the most recent budget was the strongest one yet.