Q&A: U.S. House candidates on the issues of the day

Name: Lisa Blunt Rochester

Party: Democrat

Office seeking: U.S. House of Representatives

Age: 56

Occupation: Member of Congress

Family: I have two children, Alex Bradley (Ebony) and Alyssa Bradley, two sisters, Thea Fowler and Marla Blunt-Carter, and two loving parents, Ted Blunt and Alice Blunt.

Elective experience: One term in the U.S. House of Representatives

Name: Scott Walker

Party: Republican

Office seeking: U.S. Congress

Age: 67

Occupation: Horticulturalist

Family: Wife, four children

Elective experience: None

Why are you running for this office?

LR: I am running to bring people together to find common-sense solutions to the most pressing challenges facing Delaware and our nation.

SW: To serve the people.

What would be your top priority if elected?

LR: My top priority in Congress has been, and will continue to be, jobs. Ensuring that every Delawarean has a good-paying job with which they can support their family has been my focus since I first arrived in Washington. This means fighting for higher wages for our workers, making resources available for small businesses and working to strengthen our education system so Delaware businesses have workers equipped with the skills they need. It also means turning our attention to the horizon and anticipating what our workforce will look like years in the future. I’m passionate about ensuring that America is ahead of the curve when it comes to the future of work.

SW: Constituent services.

If you could change one policy or law, what would it be?

Lisa Blunt Rochester

LR: There are many national issues that have a significant impact on Delaware, from improving our infrastructure (aging road/bridges, broadband, water systems), trade wars impacting farmers, our education system and the future of work, to ensuring retirement security for our seniors.

However, the issue I hear about most from Delawareans of all walks of life is health care. For me, the greatest challenges we ALL face are the deepening polarization in our country and a lack of leadership to bring us together — and ultimately ensure a functioning government that can problem-solve and innovate to address the pressing issues of our time. What gives me hope are the millions of people who are stepping up and engaging in our democracy. We, the people, are the hope and change.

SW: Federal Reserve

How would you work with Delaware officials and members of Congress?

LR: My goal in every job I’ve had has been to bring people together. That didn’t change when I got to Congress. I have already formed close bonds with my fellow elected officials from Delaware. The Delaware congressional delegation is known as one of the closest in the country, working together to solve Delaware’s problems. In my initial run for Congress, I mainly focused on two areas: the What (jobs and the economy) and the How (bringing folks together). This year is the 160th anniversary of President Lincoln’s House Divided speech, and just as we were then, we are at a crossroads in our politics and way of life.

I have begun and want to continue to play a role in finding common ground — working across and within party lines. Reaching across the aisle is even more important as Delaware’s lone voice in the House. I am proud to serve as an assistant whip for the Democratic caucus and have partnered with my Republican colleagues on bills focused on retirement security, workplace harassment, funding for domestic violence shelters and criminal justice reform. In addition to working on legislation, I am working to foster an environment of civility. My freshmen colleagues and I signed a civility pledge last year, and I’ve co-hosted bipartisan activities. In the words of Gandhi, “We must be the change…”

SW: Listen carefully and work with them to craft solutions to our problems that work.

How would you grade the Trump administration so far?

LR: D

SW: B+

What are your plans to boost economic development?

LR: Our economy is driven by the entrepreneurs and small businesses who are investing in innovation for the future. As our economy becomes increasingly digital and global, it’s incumbent upon us to ensure we focus on policies that will support the changes our economy faces as technology continues to evolve. As we work to ensure our economy is thriving, we must also consider how we can spur not just growth but long-term economic growth.

While we don’t know exactly what the impact automation and technology will have on our workforce or our economy, we do know it will drastically change the way we work. That’s why I’m focused on preparing our country for the future of work. I introduced the Startup Opportunity Accelerator Act to help fill a gap entrepreneurs were facing in accessing funds to build successful, innovative businesses. The bill incentivizes investment in new and underserved areas by directing grant funds toward areas not commonly thought of as hubs of innovation despite their competitive and entrepreneurial spirit.

By investing in programs like SOAR, we can drive economic growth not only in underserved areas, but we can empower entrepreneurs, including women, veterans, people of color and individuals with disabilities. Our economy only grows when everyone has the chance to contribute to it, so I’ll continue to focus on creating jobs today and preparing for the jobs of the future.

Scott Walker

SW: Work with organized labor, fix the schools, scrutinize all regulations and remove those that stifle entrepreneurship and new businesses.

Do you support the legalization of marijuana? Why or why not?

LR: It is my belief that states, as the laboratories of democracy, should be able to pass laws they feel appropriate as it relates to marijuana. Once we have a better sense of the successes and challenges of legalization from states who choose to do so, the federal government can act accordingly. In the meantime, it should not be the business of the federal government to interfere with states’ experimentation with this issue, particularly when a majority of states have passed legalization through ballot petition.

It especially should not discourage states that have seen great success with medical marijuana programs — which continue to help with the management of pain and severely debilitating and terminal illness. It’s also important to note that for businesses and former offenders, low-level drug offenses create lifelong barriers to hiring qualified workers and earning a good living.

According to the Center for American Progress, barriers to employment caused by drug records cost our economy as much as $87 billion per year. That’s why I’ve introduced the Clean Slate Act, a first-in-the-nation bill to seal the records of nonviolent marijuana offenders who remain crime-free after paying their debts to society. By decriminalizing marijuana and passing legislation like the Clean Slate Act, we can boost our economy, improve our criminal justice system, and create a more just society.

SW: Yes, because it doesn’t warrant criminality and should be treated similarly to alcohol.

What, if any, gun laws would you change?

LR: During my first term, I met with students, teachers, parents, community leaders and law enforcement and firmly believe making our schools and communities safe from gun violence is something we can and must do. That’s why I’ve supported limiting high capacity magazines, reinstating the assault weapon ban and expanding background checks. But I also understand that we’ve got to do more than address issues relating to the physical weapon.

While the vast majority of people with mental health issues are more likely to be victims of violent crime than to be the perpetrator, we have to ensure we are investing in quality mental health services. The bottom line is 75 percent of Americans want stronger gun laws and believe that Congress should be doing more to prevent the scourge of gun violence. I believe if we come together, put politics and the powerful lobbies aside, we can come up with common-sense solutions that will balance the rights of people to bear arms with keeping our children alive. I refuse to accept the two are mutually exclusive and that we cannot move the needle on this issue.

SW: None — enforce the ones we have.

What should be done to combat the country’s drug crisis?

LR: Throughout my travels in Delaware, I’ve connected with families mourning over a loved one who lost their battle with addiction. Each of these tragic losses means more mothers attending the funerals of their young adult children, more students who will never grow up to be an engineer or doctor and more treatment centers stretched too thin. The House of Representatives voted on House Resolution 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support by a vote of 396 to 14. I was proud to vote for the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, a compromise that will make meaningful strides in increasing access to treatment services through Medicaid and crack down on the illegal importation of dangerous, illicit fentanyl.

Though I am pleased with this legislation, the human cost of addiction is simply too great for us not to take additional steps to address this crisis. We must continue conversations with those on the front lines of this epidemic to ensure we’re getting to the root of the issue and as a result, can better provide the support and resources that are most needed. That means providing our law enforcement officers with the tools they need to combat drug trafficking, fully supporting drug treatment and mental health services to address the drivers of addiction.

We also have to work to ensure we’re fostering an economic environment that creates opportunity for all people, as well as reforming our criminal justice system so a drug conviction is not a life sentence preventing you from earning a good-paying job. We’ve got more work to do, but I’m encouraged by what we’ve accomplished on the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, and look forward to continuing this work with my colleagues.

SW: Gradual decriminalization/legalization, new treatment centers, further treatment research and education.

What, if anything, should be done to address the state of race relations in the United States?

LR: Throughout my life and career I have had the challenge and opportunity of addressing race relations. While serving in state government, I was commissioned to investigate the Delaware State Police for racial and sexual discrimination. Through that process, I found steps that I believe can be a blueprint for how our country addresses race relations. The first step is to ACKNOWLEDGE. The old saying goes, to solve a problem you have to acknowledge that you have one.

In dealing effectively with the problem of race relations, we must clearly identify and acknowledge the problem that we have. It is not enough to acknowledge — we must ACT. This involves actions such as developing school and workplace training programs, passing laws, having courageous conversations, and creating opportunities to share life experiences. Finally, and perhaps the step that is most often overlooked, is ACCOUNTABILITY. Action without accountability is meaningless.

Unless we are willing to revisit the steps we have taken, assess whether they have indeed been successful and have structural mechanisms for accountability in place, we will not make the lasting change we so desire. In order to move forward together as one nation, we need change that is deep, systemic and meaningful. It begins with our common goals and aspirations and ultimately can end with love for ourselves and each other.

SW: De facto segregation must be eliminated.

Is there anything else you think is pertinent?

LR: Please exercise your right to vote.

SW: I am pro-life.

 

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