Last updated: February 17. 2013 9:29AM - 200 Views

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WILKES-BARRE ‚?? Matt Cartwright, the Democrat Party‚??s nominee for the 17th Congressional District, channeled his inner attorney during Wednesday night‚??s candidates forum, opting to put the tea party on trial and blaming its members for Washington gridlock.

His Republican opponent, Laureen Cummings, a tea party member, pinned the blame on the Obama administration and the federal government‚??s overreaching and over-regulating policies.

The two did agree on some issues, including: the desire to protect the nation‚??s relationship with Israel; the opposition to term limits for House members; and the desire to secure a better future for their children and grandchildren. But their disagreements on other issues -- including The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and the Fair Tax -- came through loud and clear.

The two candidates for the 17th District seat, held the past 20 years by Rep. Tim Holden, D-St. Clair, faced off for the first time in person during a forum Wednesday night sponsored by The Times Leader and Wilkes University. The program was held in Stark Hall and was televised live by WYLN-TV.

Cartwright, 51, from Moosic, weaved some of his earned endorsements into his answers throughout the forum, including one from the American Nurses Association.

Cummings, 48, who runs a home-nursing service, chided Cartwright‚??s answer that his years of fighting for people in the court system has prepared him for a seat in Congress and blamed lawyers and a lack of tort reform for some of the nation‚??s ills.

Cummings, a founding member of the Scranton tea party who lives in Old Forge, took some shots from Cartwright about her organization‚??s impact on national politics and called the party ‚??The Party of No‚?Ě in both his opening and closing remarks.

‚??They say no to all sorts of legislation. They think that‚??s their duty to do that,‚?Ě Cartwright said. Cummings said the tea party was organized to send the message to Washington that spending is out of control and the federal government is too big and too powerful.

The candidates answered 13 questions from moderator Mark Jones, editorial page editor for The Times Leader. Here are portions of their responses to some of those questions:

Small business expansion

Cummings: ‚??Stop regulating. The regulations that are coming out of Washington are harming our businesses.‚?Ě

Cartwright: ‚??The right approach to building jobs in our country is investing in our American infrastructure, roads, bridges, rail systems. ‚?Ľ That will lead to good, long-lasting, high-paying jobs to reinvest in our infrastructure.‚?Ě

Defense budget cuts

Cummings: ‚??The cuts shouldn‚??t be coming from defense. Look what happened in the Middle East where one of our ambassadors was killed because they didn‚??t have adequate security.‚?Ě

Cartwright: ‚??(The Tobyhanna Army Depot) would be on the top of every white board in our legislative office. I‚??d make sure that every bill was vetted to make sure that Tobyhanna was not touched. We would do everything in our power to preserve and protect those 5,200 jobs.‚?Ě


Cartwright: ‚??(Hydraulic fracturing) presents both an opportunity and a challenge. ‚?Ľ I am not for ending fracking in Pennsylvania, but it‚??s important we regulate it so we‚??re not in a mad rush to frack, because horrible things could happen to the water table if you don‚??t do it properly ‚?Ľ and we need to tax the fracking properly.‚?Ě

Cummings: ‚??We should be drilling here and drilling now. ‚?Ľ There‚??s a current war on coal here. Our coal companies are being shut down. I will stand up for coal. I will stand up for oil. I will stand up for every type of energy that we have to get this country back on sound footing.‚?Ě

Health care costs

Cartwright: ‚??I support the Affordable Care Act. ‚?Ľ It‚??s not perfect and we need to work on it.‚?Ě

Cummings: ‚??First, repeal Obamacare. ‚?Ľ I can go down to Washington and say this could be cut and this could be cut and no services will be harmed. That‚??s where my expertise comes in.‚?Ě

Infrastructure suggestions

Cummings: ‚??I don‚??t want to increase the fuel tax. We can‚??t afford it.‚?Ě

Cartwright: ‚??I intend to support a massive investment for our country‚??s infrastructure ‚?Ľ looking at getting Amtrak back to Northeast Pennsylvania ‚?Ľ and I will try to get on the transportation and infrastructure committee.‚?Ě

Term limits

Cartwright: I‚??m not for term limits. It takes you about six years to get your head around how things even work in Congress.‚?Ě

Cummings: ‚??We agree on this. ‚?Ľ I believe in a part-time legislature ‚?Ľ that keeps their job at home so they don‚??t lose touch with reality.‚?Ě

Campaign finance

Cartwright: That‚??s my one regret. If and when I go to Congress there won‚??t be anything I can do to overturn the Citizens United decision (the case where the Supreme Court ruled the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by unions and corporations). It‚??s a terrible and reprehensible decision. ‚?Ľ I am for making SuperPACs as transparent as humanly possible. Congress can do that.

Cummings: ‚??I believe that anyone should be able to give money to wherever they want.‚?Ě

The national debt

Cummings: ‚??We need to repeal Obamacare and rein in the overspending and regulations. Period. It‚??s very simple.‚?Ě

Cartwright: ‚??You have to take a balanced approach. It can‚??t be just cut, cut, cut, cut.‚?Ě

The Middle East

Cartwright: ‚??Israel is with us in our firm conviction that Iran should not be allowed to get a nuclear weapon. ‚?Ľ Horrible things would occur if Iran got a nuclear weapon.‚?Ě

Cummings: ‚??Israel, we must stand with them. We must never let Iran get a nuclear weapon.‚?Ě

Closing remarks

Cummings: ‚??You have a clear-cut destination ‚?Ľ of what future you want for your children. ‚?Ľ Do you believe in limited government or big government? Do you believe in fiscal responsibility or do you believe that we can spend our way into oblivion? I think you have a clear choice.‚?Ě

Cartwright: ‚??We have heard a distinct contrast between two very different visions for the future of this country. My opponent wants to turn the clock back about 3 ¬Ĺ years .. back to a time when Wall Street was like the Wild West.‚?Ě



AGE: 51

RESIDES: Moosic, Lackawanna County

PARTY: Democrat

FAMILY: Married to Marion Munley, the couple has two sons, Jack, and Matthew.

EDUCATION: Graduated from Upper Canada College High School in Toronto in 1979. Earned an AB degree in history from Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y. in 1983 and his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1986.

CAREER: Worked for the law firm Montgomery, McCracken, Walker and Rhodes in Philadelphia from 1986 to 1988. He then joined Robert W. Munley P.C., a Scranton firm, in 1988. That firm is now called Munley, Munley & Cartwright.


AGE: 48

RESIDES: Old Forge, Lackawanna County

PARTY: Republican

FAMILY: Children Alicia, Melissa, Amanda and Johnathan.

EDUCATION: Graduated from Riverside Senior High School in Taylor in 1982. She received a certificate as a licensed practical nurse from Lackawanna County Vo-Tech in 1986 and spent two years studying pre-nursing studies at Marywood University in Dunmore.

CAREER: She‚??s spent time as a nurse at Community Medical Center, Allied Services and as an administrator at several personal care homes in the region including Kingston Manor and Old Forge Manor. Currently she‚??s the owner of a home health nursing agency she operates out of her home.

Serves all or portions of Lackawanna, Luzerne, Northampton, Monroe, Carbon and Schuylkill counties.

In addition to last night‚??s forum, the candidates are scheduled to debate in Bethlehem next Wednesday and on Nov. 1 at the Penn State Schuylkill campus. WYLN-TV will rebroadcast both the 11th Congressional District and 17th Congressional District forums held this week at Wilkes on Saturday and Oct. 20 starting at 7 p.m.

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