Candidates debate in Chesapeake

Published 9:49 pm Friday, October 21, 2016

Candidates running for the commonwealth’s 3rd and 4th Congressional Districts convened at the Chesapeake Conference Center on Wednesday.

Henrico Sheriff Mike Wade, the Republican candidate for the 4th District, was not joined by his opponent, Donald McEachin.

McEachin, the Democrat skipped the forum because of a disagreement about the rules.

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Wade used this to his advantage.

“He’s not even here tonight, and I believe that is a huge mistake for people that are concerned about a congressman that doesn’t live in the area,” he said. “I’ve put 8,000 miles on my car in the last two months, and a lot of it is kind of coming down and talking to the people of Chesapeake.”

Republican Marty Williams and incumbent Congressman Bobby Scott, Democrat, are competing for the 3rd Congressional District seat.

The moderator selected questions at random from a bucket. He asked about a variety of topics, including the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, education, medical care, minimum wage and taxes.

Wade supported the pipeline, and he also provided a testimonial account of a pipeline’s benefits.

“Recently, through our jail, they ran a pipeline through the property, which gave me an opportunity to tap into the gas … and it has reduced our heating costs tremendously,” he said.

In the realm of economics, Wade and Williams favored a focus on the states. Regarding minimum wage, both felt it was not the duty of the federal government.

“I don’t think Congress should be involved in setting the minimum wage. I think it should be done by the industry itself,” Wade said. “If Congress sets the minimum wage, it’s going to hurt a lot of small businesses.

“I don’t have any objections to an increase in the minimum wage,” Williams said. “But the states should determine what that minimum wage should be.”

Scott proposed to raise the minimum wage to $12.

“If you work full time, you ought not be in poverty,” he said.

But the Republican and Democrat candidates were divided on taxes.

“You can’t reduce the deficit with tax cuts,” Scott said.

“You don’t raise taxes, you cut taxes — cutting taxes will stimulate business,” Williams said. “I go back to Reaganomics, look what they did — they cut taxes and stimulated the economy. The Dow shot up for the next 15 years.”

“I really believe if we reduce the tax to a flat tax where people pay based on one rate, that’s fair for everybody, and I think that’s what we need to be (fair) in this country,” Wade said.

Education and military matters were tied into the discussion of federal spending.

“Let’s take the funds that we give our localities and let’s let the states and the localities decide,” Williams said. “They know how to best educate their children. The federal government should not be in the business of educating children, that should be the business of the state.”

“Our education spending is too low,” Scott said.

The moderator pointed out the naval ships and repair jobs are being sourced to the West Coast and overseas.

Wade said to combat this he plans to collaborate with local congressmen to divert the focus back to the area. He also stressed a need to diversify the economy by focusing on the agriculture industry and the area’s ports.

However, Scott countered, “One of the shifts in ships to the West Coast was because there is more of a focus on Asia than Europe. So, that’s overall strategy you couldn’t do anything about.”

The evening’s major hot button issues were medical care and the Affordable Care Act.

Wade and Williams felt the act did more harm than good.

“I’ve said it needs to be either repaired or replaced,” Wade said. “We can’t just do away with it and replace it with nothing.”

“I have been one to believe the Affordable Care Act is neither affordable nor does it provide better healthcare. So, if you’re going to have a system that provides better healthcare, it should be about healthcare.”

Scott, on the other hand, praised the act. However, he stated it isn’t perfect.

“We didn’t cure all the problems, but if you look at the cost going up before the Affordable Care Act, we’ve had the lowest increase in healthcare costs in about 50 years,” Scott said.

He added although healthcare prices have gone up, “the increase has been less,” than previous years.

In their closing remarks, Wade hoped to carry over the success he’s had as sheriff to Congress.

“The way you learn is to walk around and listen and to make changes based on what the interests are of the people that work for you, the people in the community and even the inmates, and I’ve done that and been very successful,” he said.

Williams addressed the prior history of the region’s faulty districting.

“We are also here luckily in the new 3rd district,” he said. “We’ll finally have the opportunity to elect a new Congressman from a district that’s no longer rigged.”

Scott said, “There’s a difference between complaining and working together — on a bipartisan basis.”