Candidates call Washington broken at forum
BELOIT Washington is broken, four Democratic candidates for Congress say, but they say they can help fix it.
They outlined how they would do that at a forum Wednesday night.
The four Madison-area candidates spoke at a forum in Beloit. They are vying to replace 2nd District Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, who is running for U.S. Senate. The winner of the Aug. 14 primary faces Republican Chad Lee in the November election.
In their opening statements, Rep. Kelda Helen Roys said she would stand up for the needs of middle-class families. She would confront three dangerous trends: Republicans beholden to extreme elements of their party, corporate money and influence, and Democrats who cave in and go along with "politics as usual," she said.
Roys was elected to the state Assembly in 2008.
Dennis Hall said he would start fixing the system with self-imposed term limits, representing all facets of the district and working with legislators in both parties. He said his experience on local, state, national and international levels sets him apart. He's a Vietnam veteran, was president of the Janesville City Council, worked on the line at General Motors and was the head of the Wisconsin Alliance of Cities. He also worked with state and federal agencies and met with heads of state and ambassadors to advocate for Wisconsin.
Matt Silverman is running because he said he believes politicians have lost their sense of public service.
"We need a Congress that puts the interests of the people and the nation above the interests of themselves and their political party," he said.
He learned to do that serving in the Army and would take the lessons he learned there to Congress. He emphasized his willingness to make tough choices and comprise.
Rep. Mark Pocan, a state Assemblyman for 14 years, said it's not enough to say you have progressive values.
"You need to have progressive values and actually be able to get something done," he said. He cited his record of helping pass major Democratic bills and his service as co-chair of the finance committee. He's also been a small-business owner for 24 years and said he brings a powerful combination of a progressive Democrat with a small-business background.
Randall Upton, president of the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce, moderated the forum, co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Beloit at Beloit City Hall. Here are some questions and answers from the candidates in the order they were given:
Q. President Barack Obama on June 15 announced a new policy that would allow young, illegal immigrants to apply for work permits without fear of deportation for two years, subject to eligibility requirements. Is this an appropriate exercise of presidential authority?
Roys: "Yes. ... We need to have a rational immigration policy in this country that makes sure we're holding employers accountable for abusing workers whether they're documented or not, and the people who come here and make a life and pay their taxes and stay on the good side of the law, have a path to citizenship."
Hall: The issue started out as a bipartisan effort in 2001, he said.
"It took that long for the president to enact that, but what he did is what the American dream is all about."
Silverman: The president had to act because Congress wouldn't, he said. Legislative leaders refused to work together.
"We need an actual compromise," he said.
He said one thing that can save the Dream Act is lowering the age limit for allowing a child to stay in the country.
Pocan: He said he supports Obama's policy and the Dream Act.
Working on the finance committee, he helped pass a provision allowing high school graduates who are not citizens to pay in-state tuition, he said.
"I think it's good to show that we can do it at the state level, we can do it at the federal level, and we absolutely need to do that."
Q. Baldwin has had a successful office in Beloit. Will you maintain a Beloit office?
Pocan: Yes, he said.
"We think it's important, not only is it good for constituent services down here, it helps serve some other area counties."
Silverman: He would do everything he can to keep the office open.
"There's more need than that," he said, describing the 30 days he spent walking across the district. He would open a mobile office similar to a mobile home that will move around the district on a posted schedule.
"If you live in Reedsburg or Albany or Orfordville or any small town around the district, it's simply not fair to expect you to come to me."
Hall: "I can't afford an RV, so it'd probably be my car going around the district doing that."
He called Silverman's mobile idea "sound."
Roys: Yes, she said.
The Beloit office is critical for constituent services, but also for being a conduit for her on what's happening in Rock County, she said. She talked about informal "Coffee with Kelda" sessions she's held and pledged to continue them.