State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Candidates Compete for 5th District Seat in Televised Debate

by on October 28, 2014 11:20 AM

The two candidates running for a seat in the 5th Congressional District duked it out Monday night in a debate televised by WPSU.

Unlike much of what actually happens in Washington, this back-and-forth dialogue was calm, civil and respectful.

The Republican incumbent, Glenn "GT" Thompson, is seeking a fourth term. Democratic challenger Kerith Strano Taylor is a lawyer who practices family law in Brookville.

With 100 people in the studio audience, moderator Patty Satalia peppered the candidates with questions, covering a range of topics from gridlock in congress, to health care and the high cost of a college education.

Addressing the issue of job creation Thompson said there aren't many social problems that can't be solved with a good paying job. "That's something I've worked hard at [bringing] jobs to Pennsylvania," he said. Thompson pointed out that the tax code is too complicated making it more difficult for entrepreneurs to hire additional workers.

Strano Taylor said a bigger problem in our area is people who are under-employed, not unemployed. "We have a lot of people working many part-time jobs who try to make ends meet and yet we still have 115,000 people falling below the poverty line," she said. Strano Taylor stated that Pennsylvania ranks 50th in the nation when it comes to job creation and we need to find ways to put people back to work.

So what would the candidates do to make a polarized Congress work better?

Strano Taylor said she's a professional negotiator and the trick is "listening to people and hearing them and echoing back what's important and getting to a space where you can agree as opposed to standing in the space where you don't."

Thompson thinks the division in congress is over-emphasized in reporting by the media. Thompson said he belongs to a bipartisan group called The Problem Solvers Caucus. "We don't compromise our values," he said. "We don't compromise our ethics. You have to be willing to come to the table ... and say what we can agree on."

The debate also touched on Obamacare and what needs to be fixed in the Affordable Care Act.

Strano Taylor says the ACA isn't perfect but it's a big improvement over what we had before. "So we[still] have people who don't have access (to health care)," she said. "There are 300,000 Pennsylvanians today that now have access to affordable health insurance that didn't before." Strano Tayler told the audience she's against efforts to repeal the ACA, calling that a "horrific idea."

Thompson says not enough voices were heard before the ACA was enacted. "I've worked hard to replace and then repeal (ACA) and to fix serious flaws," he said. "I was a co-sponsor of a bill putting patients first. ... it would have lowered rates increased access, preserved quality and made sure it was the patient, not the health insurance company or a bureaucrat or somebody from Washington making decisions about access."

Asked whether the minimum wage should be raised from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 Thompson said, "I would support a federal increase in the minimum wage if it lifted, truly lifted, people to greater opportunity." Thompson prefers better job training to help raise incomes. "

Strano Taylor agreed that job training is good but she believes a higher minimum wage is needed. "The [Congressional Budget Office] estimate is that we will raise one million people out of poverty by raising the minimum wage," she said.

What would the candidates do to make higher education more affordable?

Thompson says he's worked to reform the college loan system and educate people about financial decisions involving college. "If someone is truly focused on going to college I'm all in," he said. "I love my degree from Penn State ... One of my things is looking at what are the mandates the federal government, unfunded mandates, pushed on this university that drives up the cost of tuition, and there are many. "

Strano Taylor, also a Penn State graduate, claims a lot of student loan debt has been bundled up and sold as securities that are being traded on Wall Street, making it impossible to refinance those loans. "We have kids, kids, that cannot afford to pay their loans risking default right? And even if they go bankrupt you can't discharge a federal loan, nor should they," she said. Strano Taylor said refinancing student loans must be addressed in congress

The next time the candidates face off will be at the polls. Voters will cast their ballots on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

Editors note: will post in-depth profiles of Glenn "GT" Thompson and Kerith Strano Taylor later this week.

Steve Bauer was the Managing Editor of Steve and his wife Trina are longtime area residents. They reside in State College along with a wacky Golden Retriever named Izzy.
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