TROY — Miami County residents had the opportunity to learn more about the candidates for the 8th Congressional District at the Meet the Candidates event held Thursday night.
Incumbent Rep. Warren Davidson, who is finishing out former Rep. John Boehner’s unexpired term and is now running for a full term in Congress, and challenger Steven Fought took questions from the audience and the media panel. The candidates shared their thoughts on issues ranging from medical marijuana and the national debt to Social Security and healthcare.
Democratic candidate Fought, a recently retired congressional staffer, has worked in government at the local, state, and federal levels. Davidson is an Army veteran and Miami County businessman who was elected to fill the former Speaker of the House’s seat in June.
According to Fought, saving the middle class should be the country’s top priority.
“The middle class is under siege. Used to be, every generation dreamed of doing better than the one before. Now people in the middle class are worried they’re going to slip into poverty,” Fought said.
Fought also decried the lack of bipartisanship and compromise in Congress.
“Compromise is an answer to almost every problem we have. But in Washington, D.C., we have a dysfunctional Congress and a dysfunctional House of Representatives that can barely pass a farm bill. They cannot deal with any of the basic issues facing our country because they’re so divided along ideological and partisan lines,” Fought said.
Davidson promised real leadership to “grow our economy, fix our broken healthcare system, fix the VA, keep people accountable in government, and, finally, balance the budget.”
He claimed that President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton have “made us less free, less safe, more burdened by debt.”
“Instead of hope and change, they’ve brought division and despair. We need solutions, not more slogans,” Davidson said.
When asked about their plans for Social Security, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act, Davidson said that Congress needs to find a way to appropriate money for expenses that are growing “at an exponential rate.”
“Right now, two-thirds of our budget is not really managed, it’s called mandatory spending. It encompasses Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and a number of other things, along with service on our debt. The trouble is, that in about 10 years, that will be 80 percent. So when we say we’re running our country, we really running it on a third of what we spend,” Davidson said.
The key is to reform the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which designates those programs as “mandatory,” he said.
According to Fought, entitlement programs like Social Security are crucial to supporting the middle class. He proposed raising the income limit on Social Security.
“I will never support privatizing Social Security. I will never support privatizing the VA. That I promise you,” Fought said. “I would lift the cap on Social Security income, which AARP says would solve over two-thirds of the Social Security funding crisis.”
Fought also noted that, while the Affordable Care Act has been successful in extending coverage, it has been less successful in “holding down costs.”
“That’s the answer for Medicare as well, holding down costs in the Medicare sector,” he added.
The candidates differed on the issue of marijuana legalization, with Davidson saying that medicines derived from marijuana show promise, but that he is not in favor of legalizing recreational use.
“I support legalization of recreational marijuana,” Fought said, citing Colorado as an example of a state that has successfully legalized recreational use. “You would be hard-pressed to find people in Colorado that think that’s a bad thing. They certainly haven’t repealed it … It’s done a lot to infuse more money into local governments and schools. There’s also a study out that shows that the rate of use by young people in Colorado actually declined.”
Both candidates also shared their thoughts on the issue of national debt.
“We’re not going to make any progress on debt if we don’t get the economic growth rate above 2 percent,” Fought said. He also said that he would support across-the-board decreases in spending.
Davidson said the national debt is one of the most important issues facing the country, and something that even impacts national security.
“We have to get our growth rate up. To do that, we have to do fiscal policy, we need tax reform in our country,” Davidson said. “Things have gone the wrong way under Clinton and Obama and we have to reform that in the House.”
Reach Cecilia Fox at [email protected]