Debate crowd at Trout Auditorium.

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By Andrew Larson ’08

LEWISBURG, Pa. -- With many elections this fall framed as referendums on the war in Iraq, both candidates vying for the local seat in the U.S. House want to see the conflict end, but their timetable for withdrawing troops differs

In their first debate, held at Bucknell University Wednesday, Oct. 4, Republican Don Sherwood, the four-term incumbent for the 10th Congressional District, said terrorism must be uprooted before pulling out of Iraq.

"We want to get out as soon as we can, but the time to get out is when the job is done, when we have a reasonably stable representative government in Iraq that will take care of its people and will not be a breeding ground for terrorism," Sherwood said.

His Democratic challenger, Chris Carney, associate professor of political science at Penn State, called for the immediate withdrawal of troops in a plan that would send one U.S. battalion home for each trained Iraqi battalion deployed.

“My plan creates a seamless transition in allowing Iraqis to take over their own defense,” Carney said. “But we need to have an Iraqi defense that is not corrupt, that is trained, that is for Iraq. And we don’t have that right now.”

Coast-to-coast media interest

The debate, which saw coast-to-coast media coverage, was held in a standing-room-only Trout Auditorium. Crowd overflow also filled Olin Auditorium where the event was simulcast.

Debate questions were provided by a panel from The Daily Item of Sunbury, Pa., Sunbury Broadcasting Corp, and from pre-submitted questions.

Many of the questions revolved around the war: what wartime powers Congress should exercise, how much more money should be allocated to the war effort, and how long deficit spending can continue.

Sherwood, a U.S. Army veteran, said he supports the president’s authorization of war even though it circumvented congressional approval. Carney, a lieutenant commander in the Navy reserve, said Congress should play a bigger role in monitoring the executive branch instead of being its “legislative arm.”

War spending

Sherwood defended Congress’ recent allocation of $90 billion to the war, while Carney criticized Congress for throwing in more money with no end in sight.

Sherwood excused deficit spending as a consequence of the war, saying that the federal deficit will be cut in half by 2008. Meanwhile, Carney criticized the administration for recently raising its debt ceiling.

“This administration is freefall spending,” Carney said. “You know, they used to accuse Democrats of being tax-and-spend liberals. Republicans now are no-tax-and-spend liberals.”

The candidates also were asked to discuss some of their moral values. Although neither candidate supports abortion, they disagreed about its practice. Sherwood said he has a “100 percent pro-life record” against abortion. Carney said that while he favors adoption and family planning, the U.S. has yet to find a way to render abortions unnecessary.

'Elephant in the room'

Later, one of the panelists referred to Sherwood’s “extramarital affair, alleged assault and settled lawsuit” of a 29-year-old intern as “the elephant in the room” and asked if politicians should resign after such incidents become public.

“I made a mistake. I had an affair, I admitted it from the beginning, the other allegations I always said were untrue and they were investigated and no charges were ever brought because there was no truth to them,” Sherwood said. “I apologized to my family, I apologized to the voters.”

Sherwood said voters should focus on which candidate can “best lead the 10th District forward.”

Carney, citing a recent poll that puts him almost nine percentage points ahead of Sherwood, said the affair raises questions about Sherwood’s character.

“This district needs leadership that reflects its values,” Carney said. “And I’m afraid this behavior doesn’t reflect the values of the 10th District.”

Recent poll

The Lycoming College poll shows Carney leading Sherwood 46.7 percent to 38.2 percent in the largely Republican district.

For all their differences, the two candidates were as close to agreeing as politicians can be on illegal immigration, which they both said is stealing jobs from U.S. citizens.

“When we find (illegal immigrants) they must be given the opportunity to pay back taxes, learn English, register, and then we can begin to talk about making them citizens,” Carney said. “But absolutely no amnesty for these workers.”
 
“Mr. Carney and I finally agree on something,” Sherwood said.

Posted Oct. 5, 2006

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