With less than a month before the August primary election, candidates from both sides of the aisle attended the League of Women Voters’ first congressional forum in Vancouver on Thursday evening.
Most of them, anyway. Republican incumbent Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, and Martin Hash, who’s running as a Democrat, declined the group’s invitation. Herrera Beutler declined because she is in Washington D.C. for the session.
Attendees spent two hours listening to the five other candidates consider subjects ranging from constituent communication techniques and the privatization of prisons to income disparity and student loan debt.
Running on the Democratic ticket, Dorothy Gasque, Carolyn Long and David McDevitt were in attendance. To counter from the Republican side, Earl Bowerman and Michael Cortney attended the forum.
On most issues, the candidates were divided as expected, but there was one issue on which everyone agreed: campaign finance reform. To this question posing the need for reform, each candidate responded with a resounding “yes.”
Here’s a look at how they responded on more controversial issues.
Immigration legislation, its impact on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and families seeking asylum Cortney: “This is a dangerous time, and I agree that people coming into this country should be vetted. But we’re a nation of immigrants, we should always be ready to welcome people into this country to help them.”
Long: “We can not allow the Trump administration to use this crisis as a tool for leverage for funding of a border wall. There are a number of immigration measures that we have bipartisan support for that we could pass through Congress now if members of Congress were brave enough to do it. They aren’t, and that’s why we have a problem.”
Bowerman: “The reason the children have been separated from their parents is because the parents broke federal law. These children have a higher quality of life for the first time ever. For example, they’re learning how to use indoor plumbing. I support strong borders. I don’t believe anyone who’s here illegally should have a pathway to citizenship, because there’s too many people who do it legally. Why reward the people who do it illegally?”
Gasque: “This is just the end to a long history of racist policy around immigration. This isn’t new. We need to create a pathway for immigrants in a way that respects human rights and doesn’t judge a person by the color of their skin or the country of their origin. Let’s make it easy, let’s make it affordable. A lot of these people, they’re more American than most people I know. They love this country and they deserve to live here legally.”
McDevitt: “I would advocate comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. I would decrease the time it takes (DACA recipients) to get them acclimated and made citizens in our country. And I would keep our immigrant families together. When it comes to this putting parents in jail and calling that a felony so that the child can be taken away, I think that’s wrong.”
Managing current, future student debt Long: “We’ve seen tuition increase so much over the last 25 years, we are pricing people out of access to education. I would like to see states step up and manage tuition costs.”
Bowerman: “I think that the students should be given some type of relief, but I also think people should be accountable for their debts. In terms of giving them a free ride, I don’t favor that at all.”
Gasque: “I would forgive student loans, that’s the beginning. There’s a massive burden on a single generation, they don’t deserve that. And let’s make college tuition free.”
McDevitt: “We have (the tax revenue). We spent more money on the military than the next 10 countries combined. We could easily spend some of that money (erasing student debt).”
Cortney: “It should be easy to get an education. We need to start putting money and research into education. Students should be able to pay off their debts by joining the service or doing community service.”
Funding infrastructure repair Bowerman: “Let’s say something nice about President Trump. This is one of his priorities. This is one of my priorities. The federal government has the responsibility to build a west corridor for (Interstate 5) around Portland. I think it should be very much like (Interstate) 205. I think the infrastructure should not include tolls.”
Gasque: “Infrastructure has a positive return on investment. When we spend money on infrastructure, it increases revenue across the country. How about we stop blowing up infrastructure around the world and rebuilding it? And instead invest in building infrastructure here.”
McDevitt: “We’re talking roads and bridges. One of the first things we need to do is have an equal relationship with equal seats with Oregon, then we can start having a real solution and start figuring out where the money comes from. We have the money, it’s just a matter of reprioritizing.”
Cortney: “We used to tax people … to build an interstate system. It provided a basis for the success that my generation has experienced. My party all of a sudden seems to think we’re going to become great again by destroying everything they built. And I don’t understand that.”
Long: “I believe massive investment in infrastructure is very important to jobs in our growing economy. It’s not just the responsibility of the federal government, but it’s also the responsibility of the states. When we look at something like a big transportation project, say, I don’t know, a large bridge, there should be massive federal spending in order to have that happen.”