Although one candidate was a no-show at Thursday’s Candidate Forum for the 27th Congressional District, the forum went on with Republican candidate Jack Orswell and a candidate spokesperson filling in for Judy Chu, (D-El Monte).
Chu’s District Director Fred Ortega fielded questions in Chu’s absence. Chu, Ortega explained, was in Los Angeles taking part in the Chinese American Museum’s Historymakers award ceremony. Ortega said the event was a prior engagement and on Chu’s behalf, Ortega expressed Chu’s disappointment in not being able to attend the candidate forum at the Citrus Valley Association of Realtors in Glendora.
Chu also did not attend the Primary Election Candidate Forum in May, also hosted in Glendora.
Orswell and Chu are both candidates for the newly redrawn 27th Congressional District, which includes Altadena, Pasadena, South Pasadena, as well as foothill towns to the east including Glendora, Claremont and Upland.
Orswell bemoaned a lack of commitment from Congress members in doing what it takes to stimulate the economy and create jobs.
“They won’t make a long term commitment to spending, they won’t make a long term commitment to taxes or the budget,” said Orswell. He said a solid, focused approach and common sense initiatives to support businesses would be a start in bolstering the economy.
Ortega said Chu advocated a balanced approach to the budget, including cuts and tax revenue increases.
“That’s the only way you’re going to help stabilize the economy, and create jobs in the process,” said Ortega.
Education Budget Cuts and Sequestration
Orswell said he was in favor of minimizing government’s role in education and handing control to local schools.
“My feeling is the number person in education is the student,” said Orswell. “With that in mind, I think I am in favor of cutting the federal government’s role in education, allowing the states more money to education, to pay the teachers, to build the schools, and keep up-to-date technology available for the students.”
Ortega said that Chu would work hard to secure funding for schools under sequestration.
“Rep. Chu hopes that after the rancor of the election there would be some common ground where a balanced approach can be taken, where cuts can be made where they are the least damaging, where waste be reduced and revenue increased,” said Ortega.
Debt and the Economy
With the nation’s debt and economy popular topics of concern, each candidate had their own ideas of addressing the issue.
“There is no plan and that’s the problem,” said Orswell. He pointed to reducing government spending, developing a budget surplus and using the surplus to pay off national debt. He said the only other option were taxes, which he said he would try to avoid.
Ortega said Chu favored a balanced approach, but not “slash and burn” reductions. He said austere cuts would only put the nation into a deeper recession, pointing to European countries such as Greece and Portugal as examples.
He said Chu believed cuts need to be done meticulously and in fine detail.
“This can’t be done with a hatchet,” said Ortega. “It has to be done with a scalpel.”
Ortega said Chu voted in favor of Obamacare, although she concedes that the bill is “imperfect.” But he pointed to items in the bill that were contributing to improvements in the flawed healthcare structure, such as allowing children to stay on their parents’ healthcare insurance until age 26 and more coverage to patients with preexisting conditions.
However, Orswell argued that the imperfections of the bill far outweighed the positive points. In one case, the bill would compel employers to reduce employee hours to below 30 hours a week to avoid paying healthcare benefits, he said.
“They’ve lost some good common sense on this bill, and it’s going to hurt businesses and it’s going to hurt employees,” said Orswell.
Both candidates supported finding a solution to the millions of undocumented immigrants in the country, although both had differing views on the current state of border security.
Orswell highlighted the high volume of gun, drug and human trafficking that come through the nation’s borders undetected.
His solution was bringing together Congress members from New Mexico, Texas, Arizona and California – states most affected by illegal immigration south of the border – to discuss solutions to the issue.
“But we also have to find a way to integrate the immigrants who are already here and get them to a path of citizenship,” said Orswell.
Ortega, however, said Chu believed that efforts in illegal immigration were progressing.
“We are already doing a good job of securing the border compared to what it was like years ago,” said Ortega, adding that Chu also supported a plan that deported immigrants who are repeat criminal offenders, but supported finding a solution to the undocumented immigrants already in the country.