U.S. House candidates hold debate at WHS - Republic-Times | News

U.S. House candidates hold debate at WHS

By on September 27, 2012 at 5:49 pm

From left, U.S. House candidates Paul Bradshaw, Bill Enyart and Jason Plummer participate in a debate sponsored by the Republic-Times newspaper at Waterloo High School on Wednesday. (Kermit Constantine photo)

For the Republic-Times

It is being touted as one of the more important congressional races in the country this election season.

Last Wednesday night, Illinois 12th Congressional District U.S. Representative candidates William Enyart (D-Belleville), Jason Plummer (R-Fairview Heights) and Green Party nominee Paula Bradshaw of Carbondale participated in a debate before an audience of more than 300 in the Waterloo High School auditorium.

The event was coordinated and sponsored by the Republic-Times newspaper.

Enyart, Plummer and Bradshaw are vying to replace retiring U.S. Congressman Jerry Costello (D-Belleville) in the Nov. 6 election.

When asked to assign a grade for Costello’s 24 years in office, Enyart, a retired general, gave him an A for his work to bring a new Mississippi River bridge to the region, keep Scott Air Force Base open, and keep barges moving along the Kaskaskia River.

Plummer, a vice president of his family’s business, R.P. Lumber, gave Costello a B, refraining from awarding him an A because the congressman voted for the Affordable Care Act, which Plummer refers to as “Obamacare.”

Bradshaw, a nurse from Carbondale, also gave Costello a B.

The debate turned heated at times, especially on the issues of health care reform and tax fairness.

Plummer pledged to vote for a repeal of “Obamacare” if elected, prompting loud cheers from his supporters in attendance. He blamed trial lawyers for changing the cost of health care and chasing providers across the river. Plummer called it the “largest tax increase on the people of the United States, ever.”

Enyart, meanwhile, defended the Affordable Care Act. Bradshaw spoke against it, saying a single-payer system was needed in its place.

Enyart repeatedly hit home the issue of tax fairness, saying Congress needs to “level the playing field” by forcing millionaires to pay their fair share of taxes. He also chided Plummer for not releasing his tax returns, which drew rounds of applause from his supporters.

“You pay the taxes,” Enyart said to the audience. “Congressmen write tax laws. Don’t you think it’s the right thing for a candidate to display what his or her interest in that tax law is?”

Not being drawn into a conversation about his own tax returns, Plummer said “the people in this room shoulder the burden of taxes if (businesses) aren’t paying their fair share…

“The opposition’s tax plan is to give more tax credits to more companies.”

From left, columnist Andrea Degenhart, editor Corey Saathoff and photographer Alan Dooley of the Republic-Times newspaper serve on the panel during Wednesday’s political debate at Waterloo High School.

The Farm Bill, which expired Sept. 30, was another topic discussed. Enyart said many of the farmers he has talked with in and around Monroe County do not want a “stopgap” bill, but rather a long-term solution.

“They need a long-term Farm Bill so they know what’s going to be happening to them… And crop insurance is the number one issue,” he said.

Plummer said both parties need to cross the aisle and work together so farmers can remain competitive.

“What our farmers really want is certainty. They want a safety net. And if we’re going to provide that, we need a new Farm Bill,” Plummer said.

He cited as a troubling indicator of bureaucracy the statistic that the Department of Agriculture has more employees than there are farmers in this country.

Bradshaw called for a return to the reforms put in place several decades ago by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, adding that the U.S. shouldn’t “ship food overseas when it’s own people are hungry.”

Other topics discussed during the debate included the importance of coal and river barge traffic in the region, public education, term limits and levee repairs.

A mother said she brought her high school-aged daughter to the debate so she could see democracy in action firsthand.

Both said they enjoyed the event and drew a great deal of perspective from the live political debate.

For a video of the entire debate, which was streamed live at both this website and at BND.com, click here.

Corey Saathoff

Corey is the editor of the Republic-Times. He has worked at the newspaper since 2004, and currently resides in Columbia. He is also the principal singer-songwriter and plays guitar in St. Louis area country-rock band The Trophy Mules.