By Jeff Guy
With 12 days until the election, political candidates were in Newton’s McKinley School Board Room Thursday night at a candidate forum hosted by the Newton Business and Professional Women organization.
Candidates for the fourth district congressional race – Republican incumbent Mike Pompeo and Democratic challenger Perry Schuckman – spoke first.
Pompeo said he left his 16-year career in business to run for Congress because he felt the opportunities he had might not be there for his son. He also was concerned about the United States spending more money than it’s bringing in.
“In America, we’re on course to spend $1.4 trillion more than we took in,” Pompeo said. “That’s not a Republican problem, not an Obama problem, that’s an American problem.”
Pompeo also expressed concerns about cuts to the defense budget. He mentioned the shooting rampage in Ottawa, Canada this week in which the gunman killed a soldier and threatened parliament – an act some are calling “terrorist.”
“I pray each night that threat will go away and that we’ll be safe and won’t have to worry about Islamic terrorists,”Pompeo said. “I think our president has let us down in that respect. His respect around the world is practically zero.”
Shuckman said he admired what troops had done in Afghanistan and Pres. Obama’s killing of Osama bin Laden. He said he “abors” ISIS, but he believes countries in the Middle East region should be dealing with the problem before sending American service men and women in harm’s way.
Pompeo said, “We can’t afford to walk away from the world satage.”
Schuckman expressed concerns about constitutional rights being sabotaged in the fight against terrorism through such things as the Patriot Act.
“We’re giving up constitutional rights for the sake of terror,” he said. “We lose when we actually let terrorists take over our constitutional freedoms.”
Schuckman talked about growing up in Hutchinson with a single mother who raised three children. He talked about opening five homeless shelters and two medical clinics and running non-profit organizations in California and Kansas.
He talked about the need to reduce income disparities, saying, “We have to find a way to rebalance, to give everyone an opportunity to climb that ladder.”
Schuckman also expressed his support for the Affordable Care Act. He talked about his girlfriend who had pancreatic cancer and faced uncertainty about her health insurance until a few months before her death when she received help through the ACA.
“The ACA is not a vile, vicious tool to rule over the country,” Schuckman said.
Pompeo said he talked to a physician in Augusta who said he used to see 24 patients a day, but now only has time to see 18 patients.
“Who’s going to see the patients if the doctor is staring down a laptop” trying to comply with the rules, Pompeoasked.
Jean Schodorf, a former Republican member of the Kansas Senate, now running as a Democrat for Kansas secretary of state, also spoke. She is challenging current Republican secretary of state Kris Kobach.
“I will return integrity to the secretary of state’s office,” Schodorf said. “Nobody has been minding the store for the past four years because our secretary of state has been in Arizona and Texas and Pennsylvania and Nebraska.”
Kobach was not at the forum, but a representative, Samantha Poeter, spoke briefly for him.
Kobach has created a voting system in which it’s “easy to vote, hard to cheat,” Poeter said.
Schodorf said Kobach’s voting restrictions have denied 23,800 of their right to vote and that her first act as secretary of state would be to restore those rights.
“One man in Kansas is taking away our freedoms in our state,” Schodorf said. “I said at that moment, not on my watch.”