Forum highlights congressional candidates

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By Carol A. Clark

With 40 days remaining until the Nov. 4 election, the urgency to decide for whom to vote intensifies.

In an effort to afford the community a chance to assess their congressional candidates, the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women cosponsored a forum Tuesday evening.

Answers to 20 questions were heard by some 65 people during the two-hour event at Fuller Lodge.

KRSN aired the forum live and PAC 8 recorded it to rebroadcast until election day.

Republican Dan East, a small-business owner, Independent Carol Miller, a public health advocate, and Democrat Ben Ray Lujan, a public regulation commissioner, are vying for the Third Congressional District seat currently held by Democrat Tom Udall, who is running for the U.S. Senate.

In private interviews just before the forum began, each candidate described what they want Los Alamos voters to know most about them.

“I’m not a career politician,” East said. “I’m here to represent the people of this district, the state and the nation and bring their voice back to the halls of Congress.”

Miller wants Los Alamos to know she believes in science and that she listens before acting.

“I never take a position until I’ve heard all sides because that’s my training in public health,” she said. “We try to identify the problem and then try to come up with a solution. We are in a very chaotic time politically and economically. We’re at risk of being very poorly represented – it took four years for me working in Washington before I got the hang of it.

“No one can pull the wool over my eyes. The beauty of being an Independent is I’m not going to have a Party ordering me around.”

America is experiencing an economic meltdown, Lujan said.

“People are losing their homes and losing value in their homes,” he said. “They’re not sure they’ll have jobs in the morning ... our health care system is broken ... we need oversight.

“Los Alamos has always been a leader when it comes to energy ...  I look forward to standing up for the people of New Mexico in Congress.”

Forum moderator and League President Chris Chandler asked two questions on behalf of the cosponsors before turning to audience questions.

“What in your view are the causes of the current financial crisis and what are the solutions?” Chandler asked.

“In a press release this morning I issued a note to the White House and Congress – ‘Get your greedy hands out of our pockets ... It is time for trickle up economics,’” Miller said. “This is the only developed country in the world where our young people go into debt to get an education ... We have our priorities in the wrong place.”

East partially blamed regulations initiated in the 1990s that he says allowed people loans they couldn’t afford.

“Our government needs to look at when to invest in these firms ... and to do away with golden parachutes.”

Lujan cited predatory lenders and admonished Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and President Bush for their “audacity to give $700 billion (to AIG) without any oversight.”

Chandler asked, “What should be the strategy of the U.S. with respect to Iraq?”

East, whose son is serving in Afghanistan, said America is winning the war.

“We need to keep that front on their shores,” he said. “When we pull out the terrorists will be on our shores.” He also spoke of providing sufficient funding for troops.

Lujan wants to end the war.

“When lied to and sent into war, the soldiers weren’t given the resources they needed,” he said. “We need to end these no-bid contracts, we have $9 billion unaccounted for ... we need to end the war ... we need to take care of our veterans.”

Miller called for the U.S. to become a world leader in peace. Trouble brewing between Afghanistan and Pakistan is being called the Af-Pak War, she said.

“We’re not going to solve those problems with war,” she said.

Miller and Lujan are for single-payer health care. East is opposed saying he believes in the free enterprise system.

On abortion, Lujan said he does not believe the government should be involved.

East is pro-life.

“I believe life begins at conception but I also believe we need to teach our kids some morality.”

Women have a right to take charge of their reproductive life, Miller said, adding that it’s shocking the Bush Administration won’t pay for women’s health care but pays for Viagra for men.

She opposes the “Conscience Pharmacy Law” in which pharmacists can refuse to sell women the morning=after pill in spite of a doctor’s prescription.

Regarding Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lujan said, “Los Alamos is going to be a big part of the solution of the world.”

Miller says the proliferation of nuclear weapons has made America less safe.

“I’ve been assured by many scientists that they want to see a world without weapons ... they want to clean-up waste,” she said. “Many medical breakthroughs come out of Los Alamos and we need to put more money there.”

East calls for full funding, not only for economic security, he said, but for the work LANL does in the war on terror.

“I will fight to always fund this lab ... no cuts ... funding to the full extent.”

The League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women will cosponsor a forum from 7-9 p.m. on Oct. 1 at Fuller Lodge for County Council and Public Regulation Commission (PRC) candidates and has issued appearance invitations to unopposed candidates for the New Mexico house and senate, county clerk and district attorney.