Debate Introduces Congressional Candidates to Lorain County Voters

Matthew Benenson, Staff Writer

Three candidates for the newly drawn Fourth Congressional District came to Oberlin on Tuesday for a debate hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Oberlin Area. With over 100 Lorain County residents and students in attendance, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan, Democratic challenger Jim Slone and Libertarian challenger Chris Kalla sat down at First Church to talk to about their stances on the economy, education, health care and the environment.

Andrew Young, editor of Elyria’s Chronicle Telegram, Roy Church, Lorain County Community College president, and Bruce Simonson, College Geology professor and League member, asked the questions. Following the prepared questions, Sharon Soucy, Oberlin City Council vice president and moderator for the debate, asked questions submitted by audience members.

Three-term incumbent Jordan heavily criticized the Obama administration for excessive spending and “picking favorites” in the bank and auto bailout plans. Jordan also said that the federal government needs to focus on cutting government spending instead of putting a heavier tax burden on the middle class.

“It’s all about creating an environment and atmosphere of economic growth,” Jordan said. “That can’t happen when the federal government wants to keep crippling the middle class.”

Slone, in contrast, emphasized the role of education in job creation.

“There are tons of jobs right now that can’t be filled because no one has the proper training,” Slone said. “The government needs to work with communities to help educate its people to do jobs that give them good, honest work.”

Slone also emphasized the importance of community colleges and vocational schools.

“[They] put the money spent back into the economy,” he said. “It’s a worthwhile investment for the government to take on. It is our responsibility to make it easy for students to be educated.”

The candidates addressed environmental concerns surrounding hydraulic fracturing.

“I’m for it,” Jordan said. “[Fracking] has already brought economic growth to this region. The Good Lord gave us these natural resources so we should use them.”

Slone, however, emphasized environmental concerns surrounding the controversial process of extracting natural gas. “It pollutes our well water, our lakes and other sources,” he said. “Natural gas is important but it must be extracted safely.”

The candidates stand in stark contrast on social issues.

Jordan called himself “as pro-life as you can get,” and claimed that while he supports equal rights for LGBTQ members of the work force, marriage should stay between one man and one woman.

When asked about women’s reproductive rights, Slone stressed that “government needs to stay out of the household and out of the bedroom. … The government cannot and should not tell any woman what they can and cannot do with their bodies. It’s their bodies! The government has no right in any circumstance.”

Kalla, a Libertarian and first-time political candidate, stressed the need to give power to govern back to local communities. He claimed the federal government has no business in education, marriage, health care or enforcing environmental regulations.

A member of the League of Women Voters of the Oberlin Area said that the debate served as a platform for the candidates to introduce themselves to residents and students in Lorain County. Oberlin and surrounding areas were previously located in Ohio’s Ninth Congressional District, represented by Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. The recent redistricting has now placed much of Lorain County in the more conservative Fourth District, which stretches over 11 different counties from Lorain to the Ohio-Indiana border.

Linda Slocum, the president of the League of Women Voters of the Oberlin Area, thought the debate was a great success.

“The audience, which included many students, was really cooperative in refraining from applause or negative responses,” she said. “That allowed for more questions to be asked and for the candidates to freely express their opinions. I believe we could see clear philosophical differences among the candidates.”