TORONTO - A candidate's forum held by the Toronto Coalition for Revitalization Thursday night at the Karaffa Middle School included a retort to U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson's TV advertising from Republican challenger Bill Johnson.
The forum was the only public event in the area this campaign season featuring both major party candidates and candidates Martin Elsass of the Libertarian Party and Richard Cadle of the Constitution Party.
One of the ads for Wilson, D-St. Clairsville, indicates Johnson signed off on exporting jobs at the company where he works, Stoneridge Inc., a Warren-based maker of electronic automotive equipment.
CANDIDATE FORUM — Republican challenger Bill Johnson, left, listens to U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, D-St. Clairsville, during a candidate’s forum at the Karaffa Middle School in Toronto Thursday evening. — Paul Giannamore
Johnson said during his closing remarks that he's the chief information officer and doesn't have such responsibilities as part of his job. He said the company, which makes electronic components, has added jobs in Ohio since he joined the firm in 2006 and "it didn't cost taxpayers $1 million per job like the ones (Wilson) voted for" as a result of votes on the stimulus package.
Johnson said $2.6 billion in stimulus funds wound up as tax credits for jobs overseas.
Wilson said numerous times during the event that he wants to return to Washington to close loopholes that reward companies that export jobs with tax breaks, as well as to ensure fair trade, not free trade that decimates American industries and jobs.
Johnson said Wilson's TV ads are "the desperate act of a career politician who cannot defend his record for his tax and spend policies."
Organizers of the event said the forum wasn't meant to include personal attacks among the candidates. George Komar of the revitalization coalition told the more than 150 in the audience they could personally ask the candidates any questions after the event concluded.
Wilson said, "I know I am the one who will work hard to make sure you benefit. I am in this game with you."
The forum included three basic questions for each candidate: qualifications, what can the candidate do to increase job opportunities and bring about economic revitalization; and how can revitalization occur without dependence on government.
Libertarian Elsass drew applause when he said his qualifications were those in the Constitution, plus one more.
"I'm at least 25 years of age, I am a legal citizen and I live in the 6th District," he said. "I know how to balance a checkbook."
Elsass also drew applause when he said he's for complete repeal of Obamacare and if the president vetoed a complete repeal, Congress needs to keep sending it back to his desk.
"Eventually, he will change his mind or one or another of the rest of the 434 representatives will need some legislation passed and they'll change their minds," he said. Elsass said he also would work to pass the "One Subject at a Time Act," to keep bills clear and free of having other items buried within them.
Johnson said government cannot stimulate the economy but the private sector can. He accused Wilson of casting the deciding vote to recess instead of remaining in Washington to vote on an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts.
Cadle said jobs would increase if Washington stops spending money, cuts waste, cuts the deficit and cuts taxes.
"You have to become pro business because it's business and the workers that will stimulate the economy," Cadle said.
Wilson said there are companies in Jefferson County that are making their way in a difficult economy, but there is a need to "remember our brothers and sisters in labor" and to make sure products are made in America.
He said government has to end "sweetheart tax deals that send jobs overseas," negotiate fair trade deals, make investments easier in small business and cut harmful regulations, as well as invest in education.
Johnson said he opposes all earmarks and accused Wilson of spending millions of dollars on them. He said he would fight to preserve the Bush-era tax cuts and would balance the budget. He said Wilson voted in favor of a $1.5 trillion deficit.
"We literally cannot afford Charlie Wilson anymore," he said.
Cadle said the American way for the economy has been small towns working on their own issues without dependence on the federal government.
"You work together for the common good of your whole community without a single federal dollar," he said, praising the way Toronto has kept itself going and how the revitalization group is working. "You don't need a dollar from Washington to do this."
Elsass said the government's role is to keep the citizens free, safe and protect the borders and "get out of your wallet."
(Giannamore can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)