LORAIN, Ohio — U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) and Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher (R., Springfield Township) met in their first candidate forum of the general election season Wednesday night in front of the Coalition for Hispanic/Latino Issues & Progress.
During the 15 minutes they had in front of the audience of about 60 people at the St. Joseph Community Center, the two candidates for the 9th Congressional District were cordial and barely diverged on issues they were asked about, although clearly different political priorities surfaced in their answers.
Asked whether they support statehood for Puerto Rico, both candidates said it depended on the desire of the people. Mr. Wurzelbacher emphasized that he would want to be convinced that the desire for statehood was a consensus and that they had patriotism and love of country for the United States.
“As long as it’s not just a political grab, I see nothing wrong with it,” he said.
Miss Kaptur received a round of applause when she said, “Puerto Ricans are already Americans,” but said she would leave it up to Puerto Ricans to decide their status.
In response to a question about the Dream Act, Miss Kaptur said she supports a new version of the bill that would allow illegal immigrants to start on a path to citizenship, but said it would not be fair for them to get ahead of other people who were already in line seeking citizenship.
She called for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, which she said is why so many Mexicans are desperate to immigrate to the United States.
Mr. Wurzelbacher said he would oppose anything that incentivizes illegal immigration, and cited the threat to the safety of children being smuggled through the desert. He said illegal immigration cost American taxpayers $118 billion last year. However, he said “pathways to citizenship,” such as serving in the military, “is a great way to do it.”
“Our whole point here is that you guys have the opportunity to succeed and that’s really what I’m working for,” Mr. Wurzelbacher said.
Miss Kaptur said she has attended every candidates’ forum she’s been able to.
Mr. Wurzelbacher has passed up several chances to appear in a forum with Miss Kaptur. Lorain is in the western half of the newly redrawn 9th District that goes from Toledo to Cleveland.
In opening remarks, Mr. Wurzelbacher, 38, said he was discharged from the Air Force as a “skill-level 5 journeyman plumber.”
“Unfortunately what often happens when they get out of the [military] is the skills they learn in the military don’t qualify in the civilian world and that hurts a lot of veterans,” Mr. Wurzelbacher said.
He said the unemployment rate in 2011 for veterans ages 24 to 26 is 18 percent.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Wurzelbacher announced that he and his new wife, Katie, are expecting a child in February. Mr. Wurzelbacher has a 17-year-old son from a previous marriage.
He said during the nearly four years since a chance encounter with Barack Obama made him famous, he has spoken about “the federal government getting in everyone's business.
“I want them to be able to go out there and succeed on their own. Sometimes we fail, but failing creates character. Character is something that seems to be lacking.”
In an interview afterward, Mr. Wurzelbacher said the legal bill of just more than $7,000 on his campaign finance report filed Monday has already been paid, and that the debt mistakenly appeared on the report.
He also indicated that he had lawyers examine the issue whether he had to reimburse his campaign account for $634 worth of clothing purchased in April and May. Federal Elections Commission regulations prohibit using campaign funds to purchase clothes, but Mr. Wurzelbacher said “it’s a nonissue.”
Miss Kaptur ran rapidly through a litany of her positions, saying she opposes privatization or “voucherizing” Social Security and Medicare.
She said the Obama Administration has “doubled” assistance to veterans.
She said she wanted to be part of a Democratic majority in the House, which is now Republican-controlled, so they can protect Social Security and Medicare, pass a farm bill and an energy bill, and “hold Wall Street accountable.”
The two are to meet face-to-face a second time on Oct. 26 in a debate to be co-sponsored by The Blade and WTVG-TV-Channel 13.
Contact Tom Troy at: email@example.com, or 419-724-6058.