WILKES-BARRE — The race for the 9th Congressional District seat that covers part of Luzerne County is by far the most competitive with three Democrats and three Republicans trying to win their party’s nomination.
The seat is currently occupied by U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, whom decided to not seek a fifth term in the House. Instead, he is running for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate.
So the reset 9th District — formerly most of it in the 11th District — will have a new representative in Congress come January.
Democratic candidates are Laura Quick of Lebanon County; Gary Wegman of Berks County; and Denny Wolff of Columbia County.
Republican candidates are Dan Meuser, Luzerne County; Scott Uehlinger, Berks County; and George Halcovage, Schuylkill County.
Here is some of what the candidates had to say, starting with the Republicans:
• Economic strength — Meuser said the best way to defend the country is to ensure its prosperity. “That means we must continue to improve our economy, improve trade deals and work towards energy independence and dominance, so we are always in the position to negotiate from a point of economic strength.”
Meuser said we must stop funding nations that wish to do us harm and/or have supported agendas that are counter to our national security interests.
• Property taxes — Meuser said no issue is more discussed than school property taxes. “While some view this solely as a state issue, I believe Congress can help hardworking taxpayers here and in other states, who are being crushed by rising property taxes and are in danger of losing their homes.”
• Borders — Meuser favors securing our southern border by building a wall and using all available technologies to ensure national security.
• National security —Meuser favors investing in a strong military. “I believe that we must not only be ready to protect our country for the threats of today, but prepare for the dangers we will face tomorrow and in the future and that takes resources and a strong commitment to protecting our nation.”
• Immigration reform — Halcovage believes it is a national priority to secure our borders and enforce current immigration laws. “Illegal immigration is a burden on law-abiding, tax paying American citizens and an injustice to them as well.”
• National security — “We need to continue to upgrade and strengthen our military,” he said. “We also need to renegotiate treaties in trade and defense with others in the world.”
• Unfunded mandates, regulations and taxes — Halcovage is committed to reducing unfunded mandates and regulations that burden counties and local municipalities. As a county commissioner, he said he is aware of how these unfunded mandates imposed by the federal and state governments have burdened local businesses and people. He said over-regulation has caused the closing of many businesses that have supported the local economy.
• Infrastructure, economic development and jobs — Halcovage said the region needs good, family-sustaining jobs and there is a need to train people for the jobs of the future, utilizing vocational technical schools, community colleges and places of higher learning.
• Illegal Immigration — Uehlinger, an ex-CIA officer, said illegal immigration affects Pennsylvanians as it does all Americans, acting to depress wages and increase crime, social welfare costs and taxes for hardworking citizens.
• Economic growth/jobs — Uehlinger said deregulation is the key to economic growth in Pennsylvania and beyond, particularly in Pennsylvania’s critical energy industry.
• Drain the swamp — “The reports of corruption and abuse of power within the IRS, Justice Department and intelligence agencies is not only un-American, but an insult to our American principles of equality under the law,” he said.
• Health Care — Uehlinger said Obamacare must be repealed and replaced. He also is against a single-payer plan.
Quick identified the top issues as livable wages, paid leave, affordable post-secondary education (university and trades), health care for all, and the opioid crisis.
“As a potential legislator, I would be one of 435 and will not be able to achieve this on my own,” Quick said. “I will learn the parliamentary procedures so I can hit the ground running day one to write bills to incentivize businesses and communities by using the ‘power of the purse.’ I will enlist the help of other legislators to construct a good bill and reach out to build consensus and get it passed into law.”
Quick said none of the six candidates in the race have previous legislative experience, so voters should consider voting for the candidate who will not only win the general election, but will also be an effective legislator.
“I have the grit and intellectual discipline to do both,” Quick said. “I am tired of seeing the gridlock in Washington and our elected officials not being accountable to their constituents.”
Wolff offered six issues he feels strongly about:
• Rebuilding the middle-class.
• Rebuilding infrastructure.
• Ensuring quality, affordable health care.
• Taking care of veterans and seniors.
• Supporting agriculture.
Wolff said he is a fifth-generation dairy farmer and lifelong Columbia County resident. Due to the farm’s international success, he was appointed to the World Trade Organization’s Agriculture Technical Committee during the Clinton Administration and reappointed under the Bush Administration. In 2003, Wolff was appointed to be Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Agriculture, a position he held for more than six years.
Wolff said as a farmer, small business owner, and former state official, he knows hard work, what it’s like to meet a payroll, and how to negotiate good public policy.
Wegman said he will fix what he called a broken health care system by incentivizing prevention and removing obstacles such as high deductibles, in-network restrictions and referral restrictions. “I will work to create a publicly funded but privately managed single-payer health care system with universal coverage for all persons residing in the U.S.,” he said.
As a lifetime resident of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Wegman said he has 35 years of hands-on experience as a dentist. He is also a fifth-generation farmer who will bring a unique skill set to Congress.
”We need small businesspersons involved with our legislature to work towards common sense solutions and rid our government of gridlock,” Wegman said.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.