Chesterton Tribune


1st District candidates for Congress tell qualifications and positions

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In the general election on Nov. 6, Democrat incumbent U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky will defend his 1st District seat against Republican Joel Phelps. Early voting begins on Oct. 9.

The Chesterton Tribune invited both to respond to candidate questionnaires.

The Tribune set word limits and reserved the right to edit for length.

(1) To Visclosky: Age, place of residence, terms in office. 63, Merrillville, 14 terms.

To Phelps: Age, place of residence, occupation. 35, Portage, industrial engineer.

(2) To Visclosky: Describe your achievements in office. (75 words) I am proud of my ability to work with community leaders to support our domestic steel industry, invest in our public infrastructure, protect our valuable natural resources, strengthen our public safety, and increase opportunities at our local institutions of higher learning. By working together, we have enhanced the strong manufacturing foundation that built our economy and will ensure that Northwest Indiana continues to grow and create local jobs.

To Phelps: Describe your qualifications for office. (75 words) I’ve managed over 200 stories of commercial high-rise construction. I know and understand how to bring groups together to accomplish big things. I am an industrial engineer. I see Northwest Indiana as one economic system, and understand that this region wants to be the center of intermodal transportation, cross-docking, and distribution for the U.S. We have a specific plan to get it done through serving on the House Transportation and Development Committee.

(3) To Visclosky: Why are you seeking re-election to office? (75 words) As a public servant, I am always conscious of the great responsibility entrusted to me by the residents of Indiana’s First District, and I take those responsibilities very seriously. I am seeking re-election to serve our troops and veterans, to fight for our domestic manufacturing base, invest in our public infrastructure, protect our valuable natural resources, address our nation’s budget deficit, and support our institutions of higher learning.

To Phelps: Why are you seeking election to this office? (75 words) I am running because we need fresh energy, new goals, and a cohesive, achievable master-plan for developing the latent potential in our region. We have unmatched, untapped natural and industrial resources, and as an industrial engineer, I know how to promote our competitive advantages in a way that companies understand and will respond to. Northwest Indiana is ready to go from good to great. I have the skill, and determination to get us there.

(4) Differentiate yourself from your opponent and indicate why you believe yourself to be a better candidate. (75 words)

Visclosky: I respect my opponent and the democratic process. As someone who has dedicated my professional career to public service, I am always conscious of the responsibilities that have been entrusted to me by the residents of Indiana’s First District, and if re-elected, I will remember that first and foremost, my work is to serve them.

Phelps: My opponent is a career politician in every sense. He appears a nice, grandfatherly gentleman who calls on your birthday and lets you sit in his chair. Yet, at the end of a three-decade long career in Washington, he can point to very little about this district that has grown and flourished under his watch. I am running because I want to do something big for this district, not because I need a career.

(5) What are the key issues in this race? (100 words)

Visclosky: We are a nation at war and we should bring our troops home from Afghanistan. We must ensure our military personnel have the necessary equipment in the battlefield and upon their return home have access to quality health care and job opportunities. Jobs and economic recovery also are top priorities. There is still prevalent concern about the stability and direction of our economy. While we have made improvements, there is still more work that must be done. We have to invest in our public infrastructure to enhance economic opportunities. I will continue to work to that end.

Phelps: Our primary focus is to get Northwest Indiana working again, and develop our local economy by leveraging our competitive advantages. This region wants to be the center of intermodal transportation, cross-docking, and distribution for the Unites States. We can and should develop the existing infrastructure to create the environment that companies are seeking leaving Illinois. We are uniquely positioned to take advantage of the sterling reputation for business Indiana has earned of late because of strides in others parts of the state, and combine it with our industrial signature that sets us apart from the rest of the country.

(6) What specific measures do you propose to get people back to work? (100 words)

Visclosky: We should fight to strengthen our domestic manufacturing industry. It is imperative that we continue to make things in our country. Manufacturing drives our economy and supports investments in research and technology and transportation infrastructure. I have dedicated my public service to fighting for our manufacturing base and jobs that support our communities in Indiana’s First District. This commitment starts with enforcing our trade laws and cracking down on the manipulation of foreign currencies. We also cannot allow the outsourcing of American jobs, and I will continue to do everything possible to ensure our jobs stay in Northwest Indiana.

Phelps: Enforce FAIR trade policies for our manufacturers, make Northwest Indiana the center of intermodal transportation and distribution for the Unites States. This means $6-8 billion and 20,000–25,000 new good-paying jobs.

We will accomplish this by:

•Expanding the rail capacity and incentive packages for new distribution centers.

•Building a customs and clearing house so imports and exports don’t have to go through Chicago.

•Consolidating dozens of disparate economic development boards, to focus under one vision to reverse the PR problems of corruption we have suffered for 28 years, and respond at the speed of business to potential companies.

(7) What specific measures do you propose to move the federal government toward a balanced budget? (100 words)

Visclosky: It is past time that comprehensive action is taken to balance the budget. Any serious proposal must put everything on the table. It must address taxes and the inequalities in the tax code, and at the same time, reform federal spending programs. When our federal budget was balanced from 1998 through 2001, tax revenues and federal spending represented around 20 percent of our gross domestic product. In 2011, revenue was 15.4 percent of our gross domestic product and spending was at 24.1 percent of our gross domestic product. The budget cannot be balanced while these extremes exist.

Phelps: Growth side:

•Impose tariffs on Chinese goods commensurate to the percentage they undervalue their currency to put our manufacturers on even footing.

•0 percent federal Income tax on manufacturers for four years, and 15-18 percent flat tax thereafter. This will generate millions of new jobs and billions in new payroll taxes.

•15-18 percent flat tax on all businesses. No deductions.

Cutting side:

•Cut one penny of every federal dollar spent from 2012-17.

•Cap spending at 18 percent of GDP beginning 2018. This balances the budget in 2019 and saves taxpayers $7.5 trillion dollars over the next decade.

(8) What, in your view, poses the single greatest threat to the future of the U.S. and how would you propose to address that threat? (75 words)

Visclosky: The greatest threat to our nation would be a failure to address our national and economic security. Our troops deserve our full attention, in battle and upon their return home. I also believe our government needs to make long-term decisions about revenue and spending policies to strengthen our economic recovery. I will continue to work in a bi-partisan and comprehensive fashion to find solutions to our long-term fiscal and economic issues.

Phelps: I believe the greatest threat to maintaining American “exceptionalism,” long-term, is our failing educational system. However, given the near exponential explosion of our national debt, and two credit downgrades in one year, I feel that addressing the annual structural operating deficits of $0.40 of every dollar we spend is paramount. A balanced budget must be the priority of the 113th Congress as a matter of national security. We address these solutions in Question 7.

(9) What are your priorities in Northwest Indiana? (75 words)

Visclosky: We must invest in our physical and economic infrastructure to reach our true potential in Northwest Indiana. We have great potential in our region, which stems from our existing transportation infrastructure, our access to Lake Michigan, our educational institutions, and our workers, who are the best in the world. My priority is to continue to work with citizens and communities to build upon the strength of our region to create jobs and economic opportunities.

Phelps: My priorities are the region’s people. Not just returning them to work, but restoring the pride the region felt before we suffered the deterioration of the last three decades with my opponent at the helm. Corruption and lost jobs have become our hallmark. It has decimated our people’s confidence and our reputation around the country. I believe this is Northwest Indiana’s moment. I believe together we can do better. I believe our best days lie ahead.




Posted 10/9/2012