Congressional candidates to address voters at Pittsburgh Mills mall
Six U.S. congressional candidates are busy this week preparing to meet constituents and answer their questions during a candidate forum Friday at the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer.
The event will be held at 11:30 a.m. Friday sponsored by the Alle Kiski Strong Chamber of Commerce.
Residents will have a chance to hear from candidates U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, and U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Mt. Lebanon, who are running against each other in the 17thDistrict;
U.S. Rep. G.T. Thompson, R-Oil City, and challenger Susan Boser, D-Indiana, in the 15th District;
and state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Jefferson Hills, and Bibiana Boerio, D-Unity, in the 14th District.
Tickets for the event are sold out. There were only 100 seats available because of space constraints.
Each candidate will have 10 minutes to speak to the whole group. They then will then split up around the room so attendees can go up to the candidates and ask questions and share concerns one-on-one.
The candidates talked ahead of time about some of the key issues they’re focusing on this election and what they plan to discuss during the candidate forum.
Boerio said jobs and the economy are big ticket item for her. She said the employment numbers in the headlines sound good at the surface, but when you dig deeper there are still issues such as stagnant wages and only a handful of industries offering all the jobs.
“Many, many people have to work multiple jobs to make a living,” she said. “They’re very concerned about: while the unemployment rate might be low, they aren’t seeing good jobs.”
She said constituents are also concerned about not having a secure retirement as well as rising health care costs.
“(It’s an) economic issue, because their costs are going up more than their wages,” she said.
Boerio said to have a solid economy, Western Pennsylvania needs infrastructure improvements.
“To maintain a strong or even strengthen an economy, you need to have the highways, bridges, the (river) locks,” he said.
Boser said she’d like to focus on the opportunities available to the region from renewable energy. She said not only could jobs be created for just the energy production, but is could also bring in manufacturing jobs to produce the materials needed for the industry.
“It could be done by small business and could be done locally,” she said. “There are opportunities sitting right there in renewable energy.”
Boser said she’d also like to address access to health care for the residents in her district.
“I think that right now access is being gutted,” she said. “It’s most critically affecting people that are the working poor, and that is an awful lot of our region.”
Boser said she worries about proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare as well as the recent tax cuts that she feels only benefitted the very wealthy.
“I think that is just wrong, and it will harm the people of this district,” she said. “If elected, my job is to promote the interest of the people in the district, and I don’t see Congress doing that right now.”
“I will sum up my priorities in Congress to the participants with one word, security,” Reschenthaler said in an emailed response.
He said he’s focused on protecting Social Security and Medicare as well as fighting for jobs and economic security.
He said he’s also working for stronger national security and border security.
“I have a strong track record of upholding my conservative values while reaching across the aisle to tackle tough issues like the opioid epidemic and school safety, and that is exactly what I will do if elected to Congress,” he said.
He said he’s grateful for the opportunity to participate in the forum.
“I look forward to meeting with residents of the 14th District and discussing the issues that are important to them,” he said.
Glenn ‘G.T.’ Thompson
Thompson said he wants to work on connecting residents with the jobs that are available to them.
He said it’s important to educate residents on resources available such as CareerLink, which provides assistance and training for people looking for a job.
Thompson, who is vice chairman of the agriculture committee, touts the benefits of the recently passed Farm Bill, which he said provides help for people in rural areas by funneling money into projects that will make it easier to have access to food, improve rural infrastructure and support local farmers.
“Agriculture is our No. 1 industry — it certainly is a big part of our economy,” he said.
Thompson said although there has been some assistance for addressing the opioid crisis in Pennsylvania, there’s still more to be done.
“Certainly we need support for more long-term effective treatment versus some of the short term treatment,” he said. “It’s really tough to access that in our rural communities.”
Lamb and Rothfus didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.
Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Emily at 724-226-4680, [email protected] or via Twitter