With Clay absent, Carnahan uses forum to outline views, meet other contenders
U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan’s chief rival may have been absent, but he had plenty of other – lesser known -- opponents to debate Saturday at a forum organized by the local League of Women Voters.
Held at an adult daycare center in St. Louis, the 90-minute forum featured Carnahan and three 1st District opponents rarely seen or heard: fellow Democrat Candice Britton, and Republicans Robyn Hamlin and Martin D. Baker.
Hamlin and Baker will compete against each other on Aug. 7 in the GOP primary. Carnahan will run against Britton and U.S. Rep. William Lacy Jr., who wasn’t at the forum because of an earlier campaign commitment in the city’s 22nd Ward, a Clay spokesman said.
Carnahan and Clay were tossed into the same congressional district under the new statewide map that goes into effect with the coming elections. Carnahan’s current 3rd District was dismantled, with part of it – including his residence – placed in the 1st District with Clay.
The two are expected to have only one head-to-head appearance: a debate slated for Monday morning on KMOX radio (1120 AM), which won’t feature the other candidates.
Saturday’s forum was among two that Clay had declined; the other was a now-cancelled TV debate to have been held Monday night on KETC-TV (Channel 9), co-sponsored with the Beacon and St. Louis Public Radio. Saturday’s forum was the only one with the lesser-known candidates.
At the forum, Carnahan underscored his support for:
- Retaining the Bush-era tax cuts on incomes of $250,000 or less, but letting them expire on higher incomes;
- Offering tax breaks for small businesses – Carnahan emphasized that the Obama administration and Congress previously have approved some breaks for small business – while eliminating any tax advantages for companies who shift jobs overseas.
- Retaining reproductive rights – abortion and contraception -- for women.
- Keeping in place the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which he called “transformational” because of various provisions. He cited the measure’s ban on the use of pre-existing conditions to deny insurance to children (adults are to have the same protections as of 2014), and the requirement that children can remain on their parents’ insurance policies until they are 26.
Carnahan said he would have liked to have seen a “public option’’ which would have allowed people to obtain coverage through some sort of government plan.
Britton, who will compete against Clay and Carnahan on Aug. 7, said she supported eliminating most tax breaks and lowering overall tax rates. She also called for allowing all Americans to purchase insurance from the same program that provides coverage for federal employees, including members of Congress.
Meanwhile, the two Republicans offered different approaches for cutting taxes. Hamlin repeatedly emphasized that she believed the key to economic recovery lies with reducing the federal corporate tax rate to 10 percent, from the current 35 percent.
She contended that the United States has lost manufacturing jobs over the last 30 years because of “overregulation.”
Baker said, “Once we remove these regulations, the jobs will come back and the jobs will stay.”
Baker also supports eliminating the federal income tax, and replacing it with a 23 percent sales tax – which he said would provide more than enough money to support the government and its programs. Baker said the national sales tax would "would replace the embedded taxes" of 21 percent that he said were already in purchases that people make.
Baker and Hamlin oppose the Affordable Care Act, which both said was too costly. “It will be wonderful for 2 or 3 years, but then the costs will go up," Hamlin said.
All the candidates said they supported gun rights, although Carnahan called for improved background checks to make it more difficult for people who are mentally ill to obtain firearms.
Hamlin and Baker said that children need to be taught that guns weren’t to be used for street violence, while Britton said the rise of gun violence reflected the fact that many young people ‘’have no hope" of a better life.
Afterward, Carnahan contended that Clay’s absence was “more of the same. Just another example in a long line of him not showing up.”
Carnahan said he was looking forward to Monday’s radio debate.